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The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is telling Canadians what signs to look for to avoid becoming a target of the Chinese regime’s intelligence services.
“Canadians beware,” said CSIS on June 20. “The People’s Republic of China’s Intelligence Services (PRCIS) are targeting Canadian citizens inside and outside of China.”
In a series of social media posts, CSIS explains how targets are approached and cultivated by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and other foreign state actors. The agency says Canadians have to be wary on social media. According to the spy agency, the first step is online targeting. The PRCIS identifies Canadian recruitment targets by using proxies, also known as “targeters.” These individuals identify Canadians who are actively looking for jobs in strategic sectors or who have high-value credentials.
CSIS indicates that targets are approached “under cover via LinkedIn, posing as anything from an HR recruiter to a security consultants.”
The communication is then moved to secondary platforms at the earliest opportunity, such as WeChat, WhatsApp, or email. The PRCIS undercover agent then asks targets to write reports for client “consultants” in exchange for payment. Targets do not know “the true motive,” warned CSIS.
“Targets may also be invited to meetings with ‘clients’. Both the consultant and the client are in fact intelligence officers,” says the agency. It notes these meetings could be virtual or in-person so the target could be formally introduced to the fake client.
The new targeted recruit then begins to receive payments “in exchange for confidential, privileged information that is of interest to the PRC,” said CSIS. “Intelligence Officers may or may not reveal their true affiliation in order to preserve targets’ plausible deniability.”
The agency warns: “Don’t become a target of PRCIS recruitment. Be careful who you connect with on LinkedIn, and all other online platforms.”
“In 2022, key national security threats facing Canada all accelerated and evolved,” CSIS said. The agency added that while threats of foreign interference are not new, the threats have increased in scale, scope, and complexity.
On May 4, the agency released its 2022 Public Report, which said that foreign interference is targeting Canada’s “sovereignty, democratic institutions, prosperity and communities.”
“We are seeing foreign states and their proxies target elected officials, communities, and the press in order to covertly influence Canadian policy, public opinion and our democratic institutions. To advance their economic interests, foreign states are undermining Canadian innovation and industry including by targeting our open academic and research entities,” said the report.
It notes that other countries are exploiting social media “to influence their intended targets.”
The report said foreign actors cultivate “witting or unwitting individuals to assist them,” in addition to monitoring, intimidating, and harassing diaspora communities in Canada.
In recent months, evidence of the CCP’s targeting of Chinese Canadians and dissidents have prompted calls and mounting public pressure, as well as calls from opposition politicians, for the Liberal government to implement a foreign agent registry and hold a public inquiry.
“In 2022, it was reported that sub-national affiliates of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Ministry of Public Security (MPS) had set up three overseas ‘police stations’ in Canada, without permission from the Government of Canada,” said the report.
CSIS indicated it has observed instances where representatives from various investigatory bodies in China have come to Canada, often without notifying local law enforcement agencies, and used threats and intimidation in attempting to force “fugitive” Chinese Canadians and permanent residents to return to China.
“These threat actors must be held accountable for their clandestine activities,” said CSIS.