Chinese Spies Use Fake Facebook Pages to Gain Intel

We’re always hearing about high-end cyber epionage but sometimes, enemy spies can steal military secrets without investing a ton of time or money breaking into Pentagon networks. In fact, Chinese spies just used a fake Fasebook account to get personal information from a ton of NATO officials. Yup, Chinese spies set up a face Facebook page for Adm. James Stavridis, chief of U.S. European Command and fooled a bunch of high-ranking military officials into friending the fake admiral and sharing info with them.

This is a pretty common move, just a couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a senior military officer who said that he and his staff had found a fake Facebook profile for him.

From ZDNet:

Late last year, senior British military officers, Defense Ministry officials, and other government officials were tricked into becoming Facebook friends with someone masquerading as United States Navy admiral James Stavridis. By doing so, they exposed their own personal information (such as private e-mail addresses, phone numbers, pictures, the names of family members, and possibly even the details of their movements), to unknown spies.

If you feel like the name is familiar, it should be. Stavridis happens to be the current Commander, U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR). It’s really no coincidence he was chosen as the one to fake a Facebook profile of.

Stavridis uses Facebook quite a bit. For example, in October 2011 he used his Facebook account to tell the world of his intent to end the organization’s mission in Libya.

NATO officials are reluctant to publicly state who was behind the attack, but The Telegraph says China is to blame. The publication quotes classified briefings in which military officers and diplomats were told the evidence pointed to “state-sponsored individuals in China.” The Guardian agrees, quoting a security source who says “the belief is that China is behind this.”

  • tiger

    Who needs Jame Bond type spies, when some 17 yr old computer geek in Hong Kong can sit at a keyboard and gain the same info. Saves cost of buying Aston Martin’s & Tuxedos for Chinese agents.

    • Musson1

      Oh no! Now the Chinese have access to the family Christmas photos and Halloween pictures of the grandkids!

      • Blight

        If OBL was on Facebook we would have found him years ago. Social networking info is useful under a limited set of circumstances.

      • TMB

        “Oh no! Now the Chinese have access to the family Christmas photos and Halloween pictures of the grandkids!”

        Which probably includes where they live, where they work, their emails and phone numbers if linked in their FB profiles….

        • blight_

          If you’re dumb enough to use check-in feature and check in at Pentagon and Home often enough, someone will send in a snatch-team and grab you off the street at some point once armed with your schedule.

          Or posting a picture of your family and talking about their school and school events will end in someone getting kidnapped-guess what kind of leverage that gives someone over a person who has their family in captivity?

          There are a fair amount of scenarios where enough information in the wrong hands can be interesting; but since the threat is restricted to a niche of the population it doesn’t justify squashing our civil liberties for it.

          • Jon4932

            I may be getting cynical but could this be one of many steps our Government is taking to further limit our freedoms by either justifying access at any time to our private social groups or limiting access to the Internet as a whole?

    • John

      Yer right! No big deal, every man, woman and child in the US probably has a Chinese micro-chip sold at Wal-mart somewhere on their person transmitting military secrets that they (the Chinese) already know because our government delivered them (big time secrets) to their door. C’mon, Facebook’s just doing their thing!

    • Seriously

      It’s been that way before James Bond.

    • Extrasmooth1

      “Do you expect me to talk”
      “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to like me on FaceBook! ”

  • Lt_Kitty

    There’s a very simple solution to this: don’t use FB if you’re in such a position to be spied on.

    • Steady

      or just don’t share any sensitive info on “Fasebook”

    • passingby

      please don’t tell people that. The world will be a lot less fun. It will also hurt Facebook’s shareholders, many of whom are Americans or American investment funds.

    • Brian Black

      Everyone’s in a position to be spied upon. Even rank and file soldiers could be lured to a Chinese sock-puppet group, and then mined for nuggets of information.

      • Richard Louie

        EXACTLY!

    • Marbles

      You don’t have to use Fb for someone to pose as you on Fb for open source intel collection, Lt.

  • Zeyn

    if a military commander is sharing sensitive information even with a friend on an UNsecured channel, he is breaking protocol.

    • TMB

      Information doesn’t have to be sensitive. Email addresses and phone numbers are enough to cause trouble.

    • TMB

      We’re all required to take a class and pass a test annually on how to deal with Personally Identifiable Information and Social Media. Emailing anything work related or official requires a government email account with encryption. If I was someone that high up the chain and ADM Stavritis or someone of his position tried to “friend” me and I didn’t know it was coming, I’d email him on a known account and confirm it. I really hope those officers kept operational information off their pages. Sharing personal info is dangerous enough. Facebook can be as risky as an STD. Remember when they told us in school having unprotected sex meant having sex with everyone that person had in their life? Same problem. You open yourself up to not only whatever information you’ve decided to share, but to your friends and family’s info, and the friends of the person you just friended have access.

      • Peter Principle

        If you have to take a class for this, it explains why you work for the government. You’re the kind of idiot they seem to love to hire.

        • majrod

          That was rude and uncalled for. Typical liberal elitism.

          • Hibby

            It’s funny I took Peter’s reply as coming from a tea-party type. I guess people see what they want to see.

          • Stan

            That wasn’t conservantive or liberal elitism. Just good old douchebaggery.

    • John

      By protocol, I believe you mean committing espionage or at the least committing a punishable security violation.

  • Yo Yo

    Don’t blame it on the spies. The mistake is with military leaders who think Facebook is a private family/friend network where they can spill sensitive information.

    • yoyo

      yo man, first off, I AM THE yoyo. Just in case you haven’t seen me before.

      2nd, you would think everyone over 18 and under 30 would know that by now. Maybe we just keep the older generation off the internet.

    • reojim

      Yeah, that’s like telling a judge, don’t blame it on the rapist, the victim was asking for it. Did the officials share info they should not have?… YES, but that doesn’t relieve the spies of their wrongdoing…

  • Blight

    Remember the 90s when they tried to redact PDFs with removable elements?

    • joe

      90’s? There was an incident less than five years ago… Somewhat slow learners…

  • Kski

    Well now what will be the punishment for spying, taking away the Chicoms computer. Why can’t it go back to the old days of spying. Your captured, tortured then killed.

    • duh

      no punishment, we will continue our blind eye to Communist China’s practices and maybe even reward them with more business to boost the Red Military.

  • TH1

    Uhmm, why don’t we simply tell China if their military is caught spying, we will stop doing business with them (we’ll find another buyer of our debt faster than they will ever be able to replace the US consumer to buy all the things they produce.

    … just sayin’

    • zenpistolero

      We already have a new buyer of our debt – ourselves. The Federal Reserve Bank is running the electronic printing press at record rates. That’s the reason that the price of gold has gone from $400 to $1700 over the last 12 years. (You can’t print gold) China, India, and Russia are all buying gold by the hundreds of tons at a time (yes… TONS) in order to protect themselves from American currency debasement. America is trying to debase the currency so that the trillions of debt can be devalued and paid off more easily which is a technique called “monetizing the debt.” China doesn’t like it, and they are already trying to get away from the dollar. They are opening trading in gold, and advising their citizenry to purchase physical gold themselves. They are also making arrangements to pay for things like African copper in Renminbi (the Chinese currency, also referred to as Yuan) and Iran is trading it’s oil to Russia in exchange for gold. In the past, both of those transactions would have been conducted in the “World Reserve Currency” which was the US dollar.

      Whoops! If we lose our reserve status, then we can find ourselves in the position where the Chinese will get their raw materials from Africa and South America, and sell their goods to Europe and their own growing middle class.

      Oh, and if you go in a gold store in China and try to pay with American currency they will not accept it. In 23 countries I have traveled to, the most common word I hear associated with Americans is ‘arrogant.’

      • NyX

        Where are they buying these so called “Hundreds of Tons”?? On average only 2500 tons are produced each year. All of the gold ever mined would fit in a cube about 60′ on each side. Overall your comment has merit, but I just wanted to have you check on your information about “Hundreds of Tons” of gold.

        just my 2¢ worth

        Good Day to All

    • reojim

      And, why aren’t we selling our debt to another country now? Could t be because no one else has any money to lend? China does because we’re buying all their stuff. Start buying from Greece and maybe they’ll be able to help us.

    • nog

      its all a game. lol. tell chine we will stop doing business with them if theyre caught spying? how about them telling us the same? o brother, u dont think we spy on them? rofl. like i said, its all a game. if you are ignorant enough to post anything classified in public or basically anywhere, that’s something that might possibly be addressed. not expecting china (or US) to spy? that’s like expecting us to scrap our nukes. not going to happen ever.

  • Renato Kloss

    These chineses are so bizarres..

  • Lance

    Ok men if you want to join the service DO NOT be apart of Facebook. Sorry to say time to cut social media from the DoD and maybe work on a DoD only media for men to chat foreigners should NOT be on the same network as high ranking Generals anywhere.

  • passingby

    Hope they would put all the info on the web (e.g. Wikileaks) when they find something.

    • William C.

      Like what?

      “Shocking revelations! Admiral Stavridis enjoys the occasional game of golf. Another example of evil American imperialism!”

      • itfunk

        Yea because the Chinese dont play golf LOL
        You need to get out more.

        • William C.

          Wooooosh.

          Went right over your head as usual oblat/itfunk.

  • fewrwrw

    i wonder if those officials play farmville.

  • joe

    PLA Intelligence Likes This.

    • JEFFREY D.

      I doubt the higher up military personel put any significant info on facebook. If they did, they should be charged with the appropriate charge and relieved of command. If the info was sensitive or could put our military at risk, they should be penalized with the appropriate war time crime. Some divulgence of classified or sensitive info during wartime can find the perpetrator in jail for life or even shot.
      JEFFREY D. USN RETIRED

  • Hibby

    No, but I’m sure India wouldn’t mind.

    • passingby

      India has a lot more to fear from the US than from China, because the US is currently being run by a ruthless, murderous criminal syndicate.

  • itfunk

    Hilarious that people still think that if it comes from a Chinese IP it must be Chinese. Running operations through Chinese servers is standard mossad procedure.

    The Chinese are happy the way big spending America is right now it’s the Israelis who need to subvert our democracy to get what they want.

    • Paragon

      Haha glad you have access to mossad SOPs…

  • Jdog

    chinese are really smart. Unfortunately they’re not smart enough to come up with their own ideas.

    • Navy

      I think JDog just called the Chinese Nuke ETs. All brains, no common sense. Priceless.

  • Jim LaVore

    If the military is stupid enough to use Facebook to convey information that they would not like anyone else to know about, then Forest Gump was right; “stupid is as stupid does”…

    • navalair59

      You are so right and so was Forrest.

  • Morty

    WTF! Why is our military using FACEBOOK!

    • Morty

      This is our own stupidity

      • http://twitter.com/xnalf @xnalf

        Actually you need to point that finger at Obama. That would be the moron who authorized the use of social media in the government.

        • Thomas L. Nielsen

          As others have pointed out before me, the problem is not so much with the social media themselves. It’s not even with the use of these social media in or by the government.

          The problem is with the people who fail to understand that “Social Media” = “The Entire World And Her Brother Is Reading This”.

          Regards & all,

          Thomas L. Nielsen
          Luxembourg

    • passingby

      Whatever happened to “land of the free”, “freedom of speech”, “human rights”, “democracy”

      With people like you, the world will never be short of Adolf Hitlers.

      • crackedlenses

        Ever heard of OPSEC?….

        • passingby

          Ever heard of US Constitution?? you know, the Supreme Law of the Land???

          hmmm???

          • blight_

            It doesn’t explicitly mention Facebook. And it also covers relations between civilians and government, and not necessarily the affairs of the military. What does the UCMJ say about it is more relevant.

          • TMB

            DoD regs say don’t talk business over personal electronic devices (or non-military email), protect your electronics from theft, don’t talk business in public, protect your personal info (phone numbers, addresses, social security number), don’t geotag photos, don’t click on suspect hyperlinks, if it looks suspicious stay away from it, and encrypt your wifi and know how and when to use/not use it. Do all those things and you should be relatively safe.

          • passingby

            Whatever is in the UCMJ, if it contradicts the spirit or letter of the US Constitution, it’s unconstitutional, legally void, and must be struck down when challenged in a court of law.

            That’s what should be. Of course, given the current corrupt state of the Supreme Court, I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if the majority rule against the Constitution. Most of Supreme Court “Justices” are puppets and legal imposters.

          • http://twitter.com/xnalf @xnalf

            Ok your officially stupid. What you are saying is it’s ok to forfeit the lives (by freely giving up information) of our soldiers in order to uphold your view of the constitution. You need to grow up. I defend the constitution on a daily basis and have for over 25 yrs. You don’ t have the slightest clue what it takes to defend Your stupid ass, and keep you from doing irrevocable harm to this nation. (sometime you just have to protect stupid from itself).

          • passingby

            LOL. You are officially semi-illiterate. Please go back to junior high and work extra-hard on your English reading comprehension skills.

          • proud American

            lol lol right you hit it right on the nail head, passingby is more than likely a liberal………..nice shot across the bow

          • blight_

            Constitution doesn’t explicitly set out rules governing military affairs. It may speak of citizens and government, which leaves how the military manages its own affairs within the military up to them. It has not been challenged in two centuries, beyond obvious command responsibility obligations brought on by the various international conventions re lawful warfare.

          • passingby

            The US Constitution sets out laws and principles in broad strokes but it applies equally well in civilian and military matters. It doesn’t grant the military any privileges or exceptions. It has NOT been followed faithfully. Recently violations of the US Constitution have been getting worse in frequency and flagrancy.

            The US Constitution applies to members of US Congress and Congress itself, and since it also gives Congress the power to regulate the military (Art.1), the latter falls in its purview.

          • http://twitter.com/GONZ0HUNTER @GONZ0HUNTER

            freedom of speech isn’t all inclusive. for example you can’t yell fire in a movie theater. You can’t talk crap about your company without getting fired. You can’t talk about Govt secrets in open because that is treason.

    • Dodfriendly1

      For the same reson you do retard! It is a social network. Social networking is great for business, great for friendship, great for families, and a great way to move from a military position into a political position. I know thousands of military professionals using facebook. Some are more carefull then others…. just like drivers on the road, it is all based on how one operates the vehicle.

  • Riceball

    That’s certainly possible but it’s such trivial information that I doubt any spy worth their salt is really going to bother reporting. I’d think that spies would be far more interested in info of a much larger scale like at least Bn level deployments, not platoons or even companies.

    • Blight

      Depends. To a Taliban cell leader, fake FBIng has tactical objectives. FOr high strategy, find a single officer and drop a honeypot on them.

    • blight_

      http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/a

      “The press release says that in 2007, four army helicopters were destroyed in Iraq after soldiers posted pictures of them online. “From the photos that were uploaded to the Internet, the enemy was able to determine the exact location of the helicopters inside the compound and conduct a mortar attack,” the statement says. ”

    • TMB

      Riceball, it’s known as “open source intelligence.” You take news reports, Facebook postings, taking notes listening to people at Starbucks, and anything Google can show you and put the pieces together. You don’t need to steal the plans to the Death Star anymore to be good at spying.

  • Brian

    Hi,

    I need to move 2 million dollars USD out of africa. Please email me your bank acct# and routing ID.

    …Come on guys… falling for a FB scam?

  • Infidel4LIFE

    I will NEVER use Facebook. If ur in the military, do you really want to share ur experiences and info online? Facebook sux, its a SCAM.

  • passingby

    The Chinese did have a very good reason to investigate NATO using all possible means as a matter of self-defense against evil schemers. Look here

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQR2z4YCzDw&fe

  • passingby

    Facebook itself is not a scam. The behind-the-scene-dark-forces, through the authority of the compromised/infiltrated US government, are exploiting it just like they have with Google.

  • Dennis

    When are people, all people, even “smart” ones, going to figure out that there is NOTHING private anywhere on the Internet, ever!. I can’t believe that the military or any other part of government uses the internet for anything! Can anyone explain this to me? And while you’re at it, please explain why satelite photos of all or our military bases are available to everyone on line. Geesh!

  • Ex Nam period navy

    Loose Lips Sink Ships. No computer connections to the outside world, and for sure not through the internet. Only com with secure links, and no wire. Say it in a letter, as we did 40 years ago. It worked fine then. OH I forgot the Post office is suspect now that it has gone private. If you don’t want to have to read all the mail, then don’t give away any secrets. The bar girls in Yokuska Japan (1961) were the best source for finding out when we would be leaving port, we were never told.

    • Bob

      1971 to 1975 Navy ( Vietnam ) My first thought exactly……Loose Lips Sink Ships. We were told while in Hong Kong to keep our mouths shut about anything military or we may never be seen or heard of again. It made me mad when we pulled into Subic Bay and the locals knew where we were going next before we did.

  • desert

    The dumb ass chinese are like the dumb ass russians…they can’t do a damn thing unless they steal the plans or technology from us…..what pathetic clowns….then they encourage their morons to hack into computers ………..sorry assed people in my opinion! But then, our govt isn’t any better is it?

    • zenpistolero

      The Chinese are probably quite pleased that you don’t think they are capable of anything. It is much easier to win if your opponent underestimates you.

    • Dave

      “Dumb ass?” Hardly. The dumb ass is the admiral (for how long, I wonder?) or anyone in the military that posts ANYTHING on FB or blog, etc. that potentially compromises security. This is the first thing that is drummed into the head of everyone in the military from the recruit to the … admiral? I hope that the admiral is now without a job. I find this incredibly disturbing,frankly.

  • Bobby

    The military does not have to be on FB in order for this to happen. If someone “believes” it is Admiral Stavridis, then the damage is done. We are still figuring out this brave new world.

  • Nhegge

    Useing what is basic Opsec would prevent all that fuss . If ya shouldn’t say it on international TV / Radio don’t whisper it on fb . Keep yer profile private and friends shortlist SHORT to known people .

  • Hickelbilly

    I have never had a program or application lost or stolen at a government site. Unlike a few other sites that still have applications and programs that contain my work and personal photos and movies. They have many ways to block you from recovering them too. Law breakers and hackers are the ones who don’t want the governments presents on the web. I welcome them on my network. The information Hi-way needs patrols too.

  • squid

    This egomaniac uses facebook and holds command rank? Is he from another planet? Scuttle his pathetic career. Morons will be the death of us all.

    • passingby

      What’s the big deal? You’ve got that semi-illiterate borderline mental retard GW Bush posing as “the President of the United States” for 8 damn years.

    • blight_

      Well, “Republican Senaors” is on the Facebook as well. So is the Office of Naval Research.

      • TMB

        There are a number of Army generals and units that have FB pages to use as discussion forums. Those same generals probably have personal pages they don’t advertise (if they’re smart about it).

  • y, azid

    It was not even a honeypot! That is the price of freedom, Intelligence gathering from skillful adversaries is a breeze especilly when they do not have to lift a finger in pinpointing their ‘enemies’!

  • yayhoo

    I think it’s funny y’all calling the Chinese, or whoever stupid. If what was read was true, they were smart enough to concoct this profile and get people to fall for it. And not smart enough to invent their own stuff? Why should they. We already did it for them. Not saying they aren’t morally divergent, but work smarter, not harder.

  • Diesel Dave

    Have you ever heard of “misinformation”? It is a delightful tool, no one knows what ‘s real and what’s not.

    • herb

      Ya! I married her.

      • passingby

        LOL. Is it too late to sue her for tort damages (fraudulent inducement)??

  • Herb

    If you can’t dazzle them with foot work? Maybe… you can baffle them with Bull S__T,

    • passingby

      LOL. ….. and if that also fails?

  • Redfox007

    Did anyone ever think it is possible that what was done was already known about, and the information given was to mislead the Chinese Spies? You know, we do not have the stupidest spies in the world, per se’, just the stupidest politicians in office, from the top down. Our military could win wars, if not for politicians interference.

  • Orrie

    What is really dumb is our top military brass having a FB account. They should know better but whoever said they were intelligent enough to know better?

  • anthony

    No adays stay of social networks avoid putting yourself in a position to get spied on especially if you have a 1,2,3,h clearance .And most people with a clearance dont go on those networks except their work network..

  • Orrie

    And if someone doesn’t like what you comment about they delete it as they just did mine.

  • skywarrior

    the dumb asses are the people putting information out on unsecured lines, facebook, etc. what the hell are they thinking, intel 101 would tell you that not the way to keep information on a need to know priority. come on folks, lets get back to basics and common sense!

  • USNA77

    I knew Jim Stavridis as a midshipman at the Naval Academy. He is absolutely brilliant and dynamic. I have rarely met men of his quality (Peter Pace was one). It is no accident that he reached his current position. I did not detect any ego issues years ago so it is likely that those of you posting such nonsense are pulling it out of your asses. The mistakes here were by those who were fooled by the fake facebook page.

  • Paul

    Goes to show you……despite all the training received @ whatever command you may be with or whatever is presented on NMCI…….there are still individuals who will blab anything to anyone. All that’s necessary is a friendly face & a few props & let the gabbing commence. (BTW…when’s the last time any USN sailor saw an admiral in khaki?)

    • TMB

      If you’re talking about the brown-colored short sleeve shirt and pants, ADM Mullen wore it when visiting troops during fair weather.

  • Dan

    Are these guys for real -however it does reveal how little these senior guys know about
    modern comms – a real concern

  • Devil Doc

    “Stavridis uses Facebook quite a bit. For example, in October 2011 he used his Facebook account to tell the world of his intent to end the organization’s mission in Libya”.
    Could somebody tell me why the hell a senior officer in the US uses Facebook (an unsecured comm) to tell his friends on an objective regarding Libya? If this was considered a classified information, he should loose his job, period. If this would have happened to an enlisted, we would have probably heard that he/she was already dishonorable discharged from the military after serving some jail time.

  • http://twitter.com/WattsUp007 @WattsUp007

    I do blame this one on the spies…. as previously stated this was not the Admiral’s facebook account. So the Admiral’s are not the issue here. Also all military officials regardless of which country they are from should know better than to believe anything they see online. If you haven’t met the person face to face and recieved their information that way then there is always a chance of being misled. Stop playing the blame game and just get smart on this stuff…it’s the only way.

  • Navalair59

    At what point will our modern day military and political so-called leaders grow up and keep their mouths shut and their faces out of the public eye about anything to do with national security. It’s all about LOOK at ME, see how important I am. If I were the Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense, etc.,etc. I would issue a directive forbidding any and all officers from having a facebook account and that includes enlisted involved in national security areas. Good grief your not kids anymore grow up or get out and let some mature men take over. We lived without Face Book for years live without it now.

  • TNJOE

    This is hilarious! They ought to make a movie about it! Maybe Eddie Murphy would have better success with a movie like this than with what he’s currently appearing in….

  • Jim

    This brings George Carlin’s oxymora to mind…WTF???!!!

  • The Other Guy

    The way I read it, there were no “secrets” being discussed on facebook, except maybe movements which could simply be a post claiming a port call… The fact is that like mentioned before, nothing is safe on the internet and if you are looking for people with secrets, knowing their name, location, likes and whatnot is the first step in homing in on our intelligence and tactics. Its the little insignificant details that no one pays thinks is relevant but they are actually the most exploited when it comes to identity theft and espionage… I mean I’m just saying…

  • Zoe

    It was a FAKE admiral …. someone posing as ADM Stavridis. Read the article!

  • ONTIME

    Imagine all the havoc you could raise when you know that dude is messing around on sneak to peek page of FB. Noting is more fun than running a peeker around in circles and making them sweat for it…. but ya gotta find’em first.

  • Conrad

    What happened to IQ scores for officers? They must be stupid. How does someone like that get the responsibility for leading military personnel into harms way. Just got to wonder what former military leaders would think about the new breed of touchy, feely and sensitivity trained officers now days.

  • BMC89

    It’s as old as the Navy and has been taught at boot camp since the first blue-jacket packed his diddy-bag. “Loose lips sink ships” it still applies shipmates and if you aren’t thinking this way you might find yourself taking a long swim home.

  • Humphrey

    Damned clever, these Chinese.