Gary Audin
Gary Audin is the President of Delphi, Inc. He has more than 40 years of computer, communications and security...
Read Full Bio >>

Gary Audin | March 25, 2016 |


Are You Safe on LinkedIn?

Are You Safe on LinkedIn? False personas on LinkedIn may be targeted attacks, and requests to connect should be viewed with caution.

False personas on LinkedIn may be targeted attacks, and requests to connect should be viewed with caution.

I am on LinkedIn. You probably are as well. I thought it was safe to use, but I've learned you need to be careful, because there are those who use LinkedIn to attack you and/or your organization.

They do this by creating false profiles and contact information. If you work on your computer, it can be used as an avenue (proxy) into your business systems. If you don't know the person requesting to connect with you, be careful; it may be an attack. Even if the LinkedIn profile looks legitimate, that does not mean it is reliable or truthful information.

Who to Watch

A blog by Dell SecureWorks, "Hacker Group Creates Network of Fake LinkedIn Profiles," provides details of the falseware, how it works, and what the goals are for the false LinkedIn user. Dell SecureWorks Counter Threat Unit (CTU) researchers uncovered fake LinkedIn profiles generated by a group they call Threat Group-2889. The profiles are part of a self-referenced network of valid and maybe trusted LinkedIn users. The CTU researchers determined that the purpose of this network is to target potential victims through social engineering.

What a False LinkedIn Contact Looks Like (It Looks Real)

Example LinkedIn profile created by TG-2889 (Source: Dell SecureWorks)

Fake LinkedIn accounts fall into two categories: fully developed "Leader" personas and "Supporter" personas. The report includes a list of discovered personas in TG-2889 that may be worth looking at; who knows, you may have already been contacted. The profiles details suggest that substantial time and effort has been invested to create and maintain these personas. The photos used in the false accounts are most likely of innocent individuals who have no connection to this activity.

Leader personas display a full educational history, past job descriptions, affiliations, interests, endorsements, sometimes vocational qualifications, and LinkedIn group memberships. Six of the eight identified Leader personas in TG-2889 have more than 500 connections.

When a fake recruitment consultant displays a job description, it may be genuine. The job description can be a copy from a legitimate job posting from a real employer, used to entice you to respond.

Fake Endorsements

The Supporter personas provide LinkedIn skills endorsements for Leader personas. This adds legitimacy to the Leader personas, making these accounts appear as less of a threat. Most of the Supporter accounts endorsed skills listed on the Leader profiles. CTU researchers believe that the threat actors use Supporter accounts that provide the Leader profiles with an established network of connections, which enhances the Leader's credibility.

LinkedIn Users as Targets

Establishing a network of what appear to be genuine LinkedIn personas helps the attackers identify and research potential victims. They try to establish a relationship with individuals by contacting them directly, or by contacting one of the individual's LinkedIn connections. It is easier to establish a direct relationship if one of the fake personas is already in the individual's LinkedIn network.

The Leader personas claim (5 out of 8) to be recruitment consultants, who are looking for job candidates. This produces a trusted relationship. The attackers may then use spear phishing or malicious websites to compromise victims. The trusted relationship significantly improves the tactic's success.

Legitimate LinkedIn users have also endorsed Leader personas without knowing they are fake profiles. Endorsements are promulgated by the user's connections. This indicates that these legitimate users are part of the Leader personas' networks, and are likely TG-2889 targets. Examination of the profiles associated with the endorsements revealed 204 potential targets, a number which has probably increased since the Dell study was published in October. As shown in the figure below from the Dell report, most are based in the Middle East.

Legitimate endorsers of fake LinkedIn accounts by country (Source: Dell SecureWorks)

Responding to the LinkedIn Threat

You may observe that the profiles get revised, as employment history is regularly maintained. The persona changes and job updates may signal a new attack campaign is coming. Referencing particular types of business, e.g. financial, indicates that the threat promoters plan to target a specific vertical market.

There are likely other personas not yet identified. It is also possible there are other unidentified threat groups. CTU researchers advise organizations to educate their users of the specific and general risks in their report:

  • Avoid contact with known fake personas
  • Only connect with individuals you know and trust
  • Use caution when engaging with members of colleagues' or friends' networks that they have not verified outside of LinkedIn.
  • When evaluating employment offers, confirm the individual is legitimate by directly contacting the purported employer.

Organizations should police abuse of their brand on LinkedIn and other social media sites. When an organization discovers that a fraudulent LinkedIn persona is claiming an association with the organization, the organization should immediately contact LinkedIn. Posting false identities and misrepresenting any association with an organization is a breach of LinkedIn's terms and conditions.


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.