Glut of Fake LinkedIn Profiles Pits HR Against the Bots – Krebs on Security

A recent proliferation of fake executive profiles LinkedIn creates something of an identity crisis for the business networking site and for companies that rely on it to hire and screen potential employees. The fabricated LinkedIn identities — which combine AI-generated profile photos with text sourced from legitimate accounts — are a major headache for corporate HR departments and those who manage invitation-only LinkedIn groups.

Some of the fake profiles reported by the co-admin of a popular sustainability group on LinkedIn.

Last week, KrebsOnSecurity investigated a spate of inauthentic LinkedIn profiles, all claiming to be Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles at various Fortune 500 companies, including biogenic, rafters, ExxonMobiland Hewlett-Packard.

Since then, the response from LinkedIn users and readers has made it clear that these fake profiles are popping up en masse for virtually all leadership roles — but especially for jobs and industries that border on current global events and news trends.

Hamish Taylor directs the Sustainability Experts Group on LinkedIn that has more than 300,000 members. Along with the group’s co-owner, Taylor said they blocked more than 12,700 suspected fake profiles so far this yearincluding dozens of recent reports that Taylor describes as “cynical attempts to take advantage of humanitarian and crisis response professionals.”

“We get over 500 fake profile requests weekly,” Taylor said. “It has suffered like hell since about January of this year. Before that, we didn’t have the swarms of fakes that we’re seeing now.”

The opening slide for a request from Taylor’s group to LinkedIn.

Taylor recently wrote a post on LinkedIn titled “The fake ID crisis on LinkedIn‘ which mocked the ’60 Least Wanted ‘Crisis Relief Experts” – fake profiles claiming to be experts on disaster relief efforts in the wake of the recent hurricanes. The images above and below show just such a swarm of profiles that the group has flagged as inauthentic. Virtually all of these profiles were removed from LinkedIn after KrebsOnSecurity tweeted about them last week.

Another “swarm” of LinkedIn bot accounts reported by Taylor’s group.

Mark Miller is the owner of the DevOps group on LinkedIn and says he deals with fake profiles on a daily basis – often hundreds a day. What Taylor called “swarms” of fake accounts, Miller instead described as “waves” of incoming requests from fake accounts.

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“When a bot tries to infiltrate the group, it does so in waves,” Miller said. “We’ll see 20-30 requests coming in with the same type of information on the profiles.”

After screening waves of suspected fake profile requests, Miller began sending the images to LinkedIn’s abuse teams, who informed him that they would review his request but that he might never be notified of any action taken.

Some of the bot profiles identified by Mark Miller seeking access to his DevOps LinkedIn group. Miller said these profiles are all listed in the order in which they appeared.

Miller said that after months of complaining and sharing fake profile information with LinkedIn, the social media network appears to have done something that caused the volume of group membership requests from fake accounts to plummet.

“I wrote to our LinkedIn rep and said we were considering shutting down the group, the bots are so bad,” Miller said. “I said, ‘You guys should do something in the backend to block that.”

Jason Lathrop is Vice President of Technology and Operations at ISO outsource, a Seattle-based consulting firm with around 100 employees. Like Miller, Lathrop’s experience fighting bot profiles on LinkedIn suggests the social networking giant will eventually respond to complaints about inauthentic accounts. That is, if affected users complain loud enough (posting about it publicly on LinkedIn seems to help).

Lathrop said his employer noticed waves of new followers about two months ago and identified more than 3,000 followers, all sharing various items such as profile photos or text descriptions.

“Then I noticed that they all claim to be working for us on any title within the organization,” Lathrop said in an interview with KrebsOnSecurity. “When we complained to LinkedIn, they informed us that these profiles did not violate their Community Guidelines. But the hell they don’t! These people don’t exist and they claim they work for us!”

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Lathrop said that after his company’s third complaint, a LinkedIn representative responded by asking ISOoutsource to send a spreadsheet listing all of the company’s legitimate employees and their corresponding profile links.

Not long after, the fake profiles that weren’t on the company’s list were deleted from LinkedIn. Lathrop said he was still not sure how they would handle new hires being added to their company on LinkedIn in the future.

It remains unclear why LinkedIn has been flooded with so many fake profiles lately or how the fake profile photos are sourced. Random testing of the profile photos shows that they are similar to, but not the same as, other photos posted online. Several readers pointed to a likely source — the website thispersondoesnotexist.com, which makes using artificial intelligence to create unique headshots a point-and-click exercise.

cybersecurity company client (recently acquired from Google) told Bloomberg that hackers working for the North Korean government copied resumes and profiles from leading job sites LinkedIn and Indeed as part of an elaborate scheme to land jobs at cryptocurrency firms.

Fake profiles can also be linked to the so-called “pig slaughter” scam, where people are tricked into investing in cryptocurrency trading platforms online by flirtatious strangers who end up confiscating all funds when victims try to cash out.

Additionally, identity thieves have been known to pose as recruiters on LinkedIn and collect personal and financial information from people who fall for employment scams.

But Sustainability Group admin Taylor said that strangely, the bots he tracks don’t respond to messages, nor do they attempt to post content.

“Obviously they’re not being monitored,” Taylor stated. “Or they are simply created and then allowed to fester.”

This experience was shared by DevOp group admin Miller, who said he also tried to bait the fake profiles with messages referencing their fake. Miller says he’s concerned someone is creating a massive social network of bots for a future attack in which the automated accounts could be used to reinforce false information online, or at least confuse the truth.

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“It’s almost like someone is building a huge botnetwork so that when there needs to be a big message, they can just bulk post with all these fake profiles,” Miller said.

In last week’s story on this topic, I suggested that LinkedIn could take a simple step that would make it much easier for people to make informed decisions about whether to trust a particular profile: Add a “Creation Date” to each profile “ added. Twitter does this and is tremendously helpful in filtering out a lot of noise and unwanted communication.

Many of our readers on Twitter said LinkedIn needed to give employers more tools — maybe some kind of application programming interface (API) — that would allow them to quickly remove profiles that falsely claim to be employed by their company.

Another reader suggested that LinkedIn could also experiment with offering something similar to Twitter’s verified mark to users who want to confirm that they can reply to emails under the domain of their stated current employer.

In response to questions from KrebsOnSecurity, LinkedIn said it was considering the idea of ​​domain verification.

“This is an ongoing challenge and we are constantly improving our systems to stop counterfeits before they come online,” LinkedIn said in a written statement. “We stop the vast majority of fraudulent activity we detect in our community – approximately 96% of fake accounts and approximately 99.1% of spam and scam attempts. We’re also exploring new ways to protect our members, such as: B. Extension of email domain verification. Our community is all about authentic people having meaningful conversations and always increasing the legitimacy and quality of our community.”

In a story published Wednesday, Bloomberg noted that LinkedIn has largely avoided the bot scandals that have plagued networks like Facebook and Twitter. But that shine is gradually fading as more and more users are forced to waste more time fighting inauthentic accounts.

“What’s clear is that LinkedIn’s stamp of approval as a social network for serious professionals makes it the perfect platform for giving members a false sense of security,” Bloomberg said Tim Kuplan wrote. “The security risk is exacerbated by the vast amount of data LinkedIn collects and publishes, which underpins its entire business model, but lacks robust verification mechanisms.”

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