Military counter-intelligence officers and GCHQ analysts are among more than 1,000 to make themselves potential targets by disclosing their status in a breach of government guidelines, a Daily Mail investigation reveals. A file photo is used above

British spies were yesterday accused of handing a gift to Chinese agents and putting national security at risk by bragging about classified work on LinkedIn.

Military counter-intelligence officers and GCHQ analysts are among more than 1,000 to make themselves potential targets by disclosing their status in a breach of government guidelines, a Daily Mail investigation reveals.

Workers who pass developed vetting – background checks on finances, family, and sexual history – can receive access to information marked as Top Secret.

Military counter-intelligence officers and GCHQ analysts are among more than 1,000 to make themselves potential targets by disclosing their status in a breach of government guidelines, a Daily Mail investigation reveals. A file photo is used above

The classification applies to material with the potential to damage national security, cause widespread loss of life and cripple the economy.

It comes as MI5 director general Ken McCallum warned last week of the ‘breathtaking’ threat from China, whose interference in Britain has seen spy investigations rise seven-fold. 

He also flagged the risks of sites such as LinkedIn which are being used to target Government officials, businesses and academics.

A Mail audit discovered enemy operatives had a ready supply of easy targets, with 1,242 UK workers sharing their developed vetting status on LinkedIn. These included:

  • An ex-RAF communications specialist who provided top-secret briefings for GCHQ, MI6, and Nato;
  • A senior manager for the Navy’s T-26 Global Warship Programme, which is building a frigate designed to hunt down Russian nuclear submarines;
  • A test pilot for the F-35B fighter jet, which is Britain’s primary strike aircraft for the next three decades;
  • A missile engineer who openly boasted about signing the Official Secrets Act.

The Mail discovered the pages from searches of open LinkedIn pages available to anyone around the world. While there are fears about Russian espionage, security services are most concerned about Chinese activity. 

Mr McCallum said MI5 has doubled its capacity to combat Beijing’s spies and warned it will have to grow as much again to stop China stealing the ‘crown jewels’ from UK businesses and institutions.

He said MI5 was investigating 100 ‘intelligence leads’ from an app launched in May to thwart foreign spies using online sites to recruit government officials, businesses and academics.

The Think Before You Link app helps potential targets to do their own ‘digital due diligence’ checks before accepting unknown contacts online.

Professor Anthony Glees, an intelligence expert at the University of Buckingham, said the revelations were ‘shocking’ and branded LinkedIn ‘one of the single gravest threats to national security right now’.

He added: ‘If I were working in Russian military intelligence, I’d be leveraging everything I could to learn more about things like Britain’s drone and anti-air missile programmes. LinkedIn would be an obvious first step, as it helps you track down the people who know those programmes intimately.

‘These people are freely and foolishly disclosing their expertise to our enemies.’

It comes as MI5 director general Ken McCallum warned last week of the ‘breathtaking’ threat from China, whose interference in Britain has seen spy investigations rise seven-fold. He also flagged the risks of sites such as LinkedIn which are being used to target Government officials, businesses and academics. A file photo is used above

One profile belonged to a senior officer attached to the 16 Air Assault Brigade, an elite unit believed to be on standby in case troops are sent to join the Ukrainian war effort.

He said he was ‘searching for a new role that plays to my strengths in research, analysis, communication and leadership either in the UK or Germany’.

Another was a telecoms expert responsible for ‘delivering into service the British Army’s future generation of electronic surveillance platforms’.

Others were a network engineer who helped implement the Ministry of Defence’s cybersecurity measures and a naval officer overseeing a £300million signals intelligence programme.

The Mail also used LinkedIn to identify 14 members of the MoD unit working around the clock to give the Ukrainian army real-time updates on Russia’s invasion. They included an expert in drone surveillance, a cybersecurity specialist, and an artificial intelligence developer.

Several profiles had links to online CVs with mobile numbers and postal addresses, which ex-military intelligence colonel Philip Ingram described as an ‘open goal for spies’.

He said: ‘Advertising your access to state secrets is idiotic. I once had a Chinese spy try to turn me into an asset on LinkedIn by posing as a businessman who needed me to write a paper on counter-terrorism and security. The goal was to establish a relationship and eventually ask for more sensitive information.

‘I was able to identify what was happening because I’ve had the benefit of years working in counter-intelligence. That’s not a luxury many people have.

‘You wouldn’t tell a stranger in a supermarket your home address, phone number, and security clearance status, so why would you do it online?’

A government spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on individuals’ security clearance.’

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By Jon Doe