The British government has launched a new app aimed at protecting people from falling prey to online spying by foreign spies.
The British intelligence agency MI5 says it is aware that tens of thousands of British citizens have been targeted through fake social media profiles on websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook. Foreign spies try to persuade people to give sensitive information.
This app called ‘Think Before You Link’ will help people to identify suspicious people’s contacts.
Detectives have long sought out people to access sensitive information, but the online world now allows them to do so on a large scale and remotely.
Now a spy doesn’t have to meet anyone at a conference or a coffee shop, he can do this just by creating a fake profile and using it he can trap people.
In the beginning, the people who are contacted are asked less sensitive questions. Later, when the snow melts, the line is crossed.
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The government has released a series of case studies showing how spies obtain sensitive information by contacting people.
In one case, an unidentified former government employee, whose security has been cleared, contacts someone on a professional networking site and then travels to another country to meet him.
Over a six-month period, he was provided with a “secret communications system” and was asked to provide sensitive government information.
The case is being cited as an example of the growing threat posed by foreign online spying methods.
In another instance, a serving security clerk approached a government employee, pretending to be affiliated with a think tank.
Because an acquaintance of the two of them also appeared in the contact list, despite some doubts, the government employee felt that the profile was real. After that a series of messages started and then a consultancy was also offered.
Developed with the help of scientists working on human behavior, this app forces users to ask questions such as whether the person they are contacting is real or fake.
It is important to consider whether the person is overly flattering or making an offer that may seem far-fetched.
Users can also win ‘trophies and certificates’ that can be shared with their security team, according to the app’s website.
The app also includes a search feature to find the reverse image, which can be used to see if the images have ever been used on other websites. This is how fake people and things are often identified.
User responses will be used to analyze whether the profile is high, medium or low risk.
If it is moderate or high risk, it is recommended to report it to the security agencies.
The app does not have access to the spy database and no one can give a definitive answer, it is just designed to highlight the threats. The app may not be effective against highly sophisticated spies who use real identities instead of fake ones.
And in the future, the ability to detect fake spies may become more difficult as states use artificial intelligence and more effective “deep fax” to identify fake ones.
This app is the latest step in the Center for the Protection of National Infrastructure’s (CPNI) ‘Think Before You Link’ campaign.
According to Cyber Security Minister Steve Barclay, fake profiles are being created on an “industrial scale”. “That’s why it’s important that we do everything we can to protect ourselves and our information, to make sure that the people we contact online are what they say they are.” This new app will be an important tool in this endeavor. “