British domestic spy agency MI5 chief Ken McCallum helps launch 'Think Before You Link' app which is aimed at social media users detect fake profiles

    A new has been launched by the UK’s Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) to help users identify fake profiles on social media and professional networking sites.

    Part of the CPNI’s wider ‘Think Before You Link’ campaign, the app aims to make it easier for users to spot fake online profiles used by malicious actors including foreign intelligence agents and take steps to report them.

    In the last year, over 10,000 UK nationals from across society have been targeted on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and in the first half of last year alone, LinkedIn stopped 11.6 million fake accounts at registration.  Recent research by the University of Portsmouth suggests that around 16.8 million LinkedIn users in the UK may have accepted connection requests from unknown contacts, and three quarters of Facebook and LinkedIn users having received them from suspicious profiles.

    The new app, launched on 17th May, has been developed with behavioural scientists to include features such as a profile reviewer, which will help individuals identify potentially fake profiles and report anything they deem suspicious.

    Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay, Lead Minister for Cyber Security said:

    “The online threat via social media is increasing, with fake profiles on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook being created on an industrial scale.

    “Many of these profiles are established as an elaborate ruse for eliciting details from either officials or members of the public who may have access to information relating to our national security.

    “It is therefore crucial that we do all we can to protect ourselves and our information, ensuring those who we connect with online are who they say they are. This new app will be an important tool in that endeavour.”

    Director General of MI5 Ken McCallum said:

    “MI5 has seen over 10,000 disguised approaches on professional networking sites from foreign spies to people up and down the UK. Foreign spies are actively working to build relationships with those working in government, in high-tech business and in academia.

    “The Think Before You Link app helps those who may be receiving disguised approaches, helping them to conduct their own digital due diligence before accepting unknown contacts online.”

    Vincent Devine, the Government Chief Security Officer said:

    “Hostile actors can easily use social media to conduct online research into an individual’s interests, activities and personal and professional connections. They can then use that information to target the individual online.

    “The Think Before You Link app is an effective way for government staff and the public to protect themselves against those threats.”

    The app is freely available to download on the Google Play or Apple store.


    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

    Read more posts by this author.