Army Warns Troops to Be Wary of Job Offers as China Wages Subtle Intel-Gathering Campaign

U.S. Army soldiers board a CH-47
U.S. Army soldiers board a CH-47 for a Downed Aircraft Recovery Team (DART) exercise on March 15, 2024. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Vincent Levelev)

The Army is warning soldiers to steer clear of job offers and other financial opportunities that may be too good to be true, or seem suspicious, as foreign agents are using social media as a means to contact troops and civilian employees to gather critical information.

"Foreign adversaries are increasing the use of social media and seemingly legitimate job offers to elicit sensitive information," a memo to the force said last week.

The warning comes as adversaries, particularly China, are significantly building their footprint online. That's being done through Chinese companies expanding their business influence in the tech community and disinformation campaigns being waged online. But one of the newer concerns from Pentagon officials is Beijing conducting subtle and sophisticated exploitation of troops, their families and civilian officials in the Defense Department.

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The Army warned of online networking sites such as LinkedIn, Reddit and Discord being hot spots for adversaries to target individuals with tactical information, defense contract knowledge or a background in technology development, or information on combat-essential resources.

"Requests initiate with simple 'getting to know you' questions such as 'where do you work, how old are you and what are your hobbies,' and other non-alerting topics," the memo noted. "The questions may increase in sensitivity over time although the dialogue may never evolve into direct or explicit requests for classified information."

    Some questions, the memo notes, will involve gathering opinions on foreign policy topics such as Taiwan, Ukraine or Israel.

    The Army also warned that adversaries may offer disproportional payments, salary proffers and all-expenses-paid trips to China and other destinations. Family members of service members and Army civilian employees are also being targeted, according to the service.

    Army officials are urging military personnel to report if foreign governments or corporations try to recruit them, or if they receive any suspicious financial offer or contact. Last year, the Biden administration blacklisted 36 Chinese companies, including technology and aviation entities, from doing business with U.S. firms, citing national security concerns.

    American intelligence agencies also raised concerns earlier this month that China is aggressively trying to recruit American military pilots, as well as aviators from other Western militaries, to gain insight into tactics and train its own air force.

    The news comes after an active-duty soldier allegedly sold sensitive military documents related to the defense of Taiwan. Sgt. Korbein Schultz, an intelligence analyst, is accused of downloading and selling information for some $42,000 over the course of a year, according to a Justice Department press release. He also allegedly sold documents related to the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS.

    He was arrested in March and charged with six counts related to conspiracy and bribery. He served with the 506th Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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