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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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’

  • 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!”

  • fewrwrw

    i wonder if those officials play farmville.

  • joe

    PLA Intelligence Likes This.

  • 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.

  • Jdog

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

  • 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!

  • 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_

      “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


    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

  • 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.

  • 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

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

  • 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?)

  • 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.

  • 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.


    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!


    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.