Linkedin can seriously damage your internet security
Over the last few years I have received invitations from quite a few friends to join Linkedin. Depite the fact the company boasts more than 300 million members, I’ve always refused on the premise I can’t see any personal advantage whatsoever. But I can see how trawling the internet for personal information to sell on to research and marketing companies must be very profitable indeed.
But it seems Linkedin is harbouring a very dark and dirty secret that could end up with your personal details falling into the hands of international criminal organisations. The name Linkedin is beng used by criminal gangs to invade your computer and the company doesn’t appear to be taking any steps to inform you. Quite the opposite, it seems to be flooding inboxes with so many emails it adds to the confusion, which in turn only serves to aid the criminals in pursuing their frauds on a huge scale. Added to that, many people with no connection to Linkedin at all are getting locked in to a never-ending stream of unwanted and unsoliticed spam.
Of all the virus alerts and threats to my email accounts, over the last year or so, nearly every one has been from someone, who is a genuine member of Linkedin. But even they don’t see the possible link between their membership of Linkedin and the viruses that have been affecting their email accounts.
As soon as you receive an email, purporting to come from Linkedin, you should immediately run your anti-virus program, I would go so far as to advise you to spam it, without opening it, straightaway, even if it appears to be from your oldest and most trusted friend. Then email them to ask if they have used your name in anything related to Linkedin. If you really do want to join Linkedin I strongly advise you contact them through their official site, which can be accessed through any search engine.
I have had to warn people time and time again to check their accounts for viruses, and many seem to think I’m blaming them rather than alerting them. I tell them never to give my name to Linkedin and, where they have, to stop the company sending me emails that are the result of them forwarding my details to Linkedin. In some cases, where they tell me they can’t see what all the bother is about, the problem has led to the ending of a couple of friendships. The idea they aren’t allowed to send private details of my life to any company they wish, doesn’t seem to occur to them. The fact is I have received so many emails claiming to be from Linkedin, some of which have contained viruses, that I have suffered unnecessary stress from having to constantly ensure my computer is clean. So much for the ‘social network’ that is touted around so freely. Much of what Linkedin does could be more accurately described as anti-social behaviour. Whatever I try to do doesn’t appear to discourage them.
Screenshot of page claiming I am a member of Linkedin
I believe improper use of the Linkedin name may have led to the loss of my Outlook (Hotmail) account, which was compromised earlier this year. Something Microsoft tried to fix by removing my access to it for a month, and then making it almost impossible for me to reclaim information stored in that account, by not alerting me properly, or early enough.
In order to reclaim the account — which I had held for eighteen years — Microsoft sent me several so-called codes, which changed every few seconds. I still remain unconvinced the codes really did come from Outlook. I just can’t be sure. The point is, if the servers don’t fill you in with all the information you need, at the time you need it, you can’t put your trust in them. One thing becomes abundantly clear, they certainly don’t trust you and I.
Like all the other main providers, Outlook seems to be under the rather illogical belief we can all tell the difference between a spam email and a real one, when they both look exactly the same. That’s the whole point isn’t it?
I know the identity of the person, whose account probably compromised my Outlook account, which Microsoft informed me, in a roundabout way, had almost certainly been taken over by a criminal gang.
At exactly the same time, the company was assuring journalists they were having no problems, nearly every other major company warning their subscribers of a worm infecting computers all over the world. Newspapers were urging us to immediately change our passwords for ones that were impossible to remember, and took an aeon to log on. That was only if you managed to locate the scrap of paper you wrote the new password down on. We were told our dog’s name, and date of birth, were no longer safe, and we should compose passwords which resembled scientific formulae for the origins of the universe. You’d have thought NSA and GCHQ might’ve used some of the humongous budgets they receive to spy on us – for our own protection, of course – to try to catch the criminals draining our bank accounts instead. No, it’s far more important for the security services to know who we invited to dinner last Tuesday, and what was on the menu.
More worringly, in my particular case, the person I suspect of allowing my Outlook account to be compromised, is a civil servant working in a reasonably high position for an English county council. Obviously, such a position could allow him access to thousands of email accounts of people living in that area. Those accounts could be also compromised and the information sold on. Bank account details, and other private information, could’ve been obtained by people you wouldn’t trust to guard a camel turd for a couple of minutes while you nipped off for a whizz. I’m not saying that happened, and even if it did, I have received emails that inform me I am bind me to confidential clauses that could put me in breach of the Offical Secrets Act if I were to reveal the contents, no matter if they were just details of a bus timetable. These clever dicks try to cover every angle, so you can’t reveal the scale of their incompetence. That would never do. Trust in government and secrecy is vital for ensuring our own protection and, well, ensuring our trust in government and secrecy. Orwell would be sniggering in his grave.
But to return to Linkedin. To my mind, the compay’s activities amount to little little more than internet stalking, as they use every means possible to force people to join, if only to stop them sending you emails inviting you to join. If you reply to their request to verify you know someone, who has joined Linkedin, they will use that to claim you are a member of Linkedin. If you don’t join, they hound you to death with emails two, three or more times a week, even after you confine their emails to the spam bin. And, despite their claims to the contrary, they do it for months that mount into years. They are becoming their own worst enemy, as you can no longer be sure whether the emails are genuine, or from one of the criminal cloning gangs intent on stealing your identity and your email account.
Linkedin claim I am a member of their social network in Spain. I can assure you I am not. And there isn’t another Bryan Hemming in living Spain, who is a member of Linkedin. Their own page proves it. If there is, he hasn’t given them any of his details, despite Linkedin’s claim you can link to them.
If you click onto the button saying ver el perfil completo de Bryan which translates as see Bryan’s complete profile and refers to a Bryan Hemming they claim is a member of Linkedin living in Spain, it takes you straight to a registration form for you to sign up to Linkedin. As I can find no other Bryan Hemming living in Spain on any search engine I have to assume the entry refers to me. Every other entry does. In legal terms this is known as misrepresentation. They have no right to use my name in this way.
Here is the supposed Linkedin link for the Bryan Hemming living in Spain, I followed from the Google entry: http://es.linkedin.com/pub/bryan-hemming/50/622/863. Linkedin claim you can not only find out information about me but also you can contact me directly by using it. Those claims are completely, and provably, false. You cannot contact anyone with my name in Spain through Linkedin.
Despite Linkedin’s claim, there is no member of Linkedin in Spain registered under the name Bryan Hemming. It’s a complete and utter lie, which goes against my professional interests, as I do not want my name or my work to be connected to Linkedin in any way whatsoever. I believe the brand has become irretrievably tarnished, and linking my name to a direputable company with questionable ethics, will tarnish my image. But it seems I don’t have that choice, Linkedin appears to believe they have the right to appropriate anybody’s name without payment, or permission, to advertise their product.
Avoid Linkedin. If they aren’t trying to garner information about you to sell on, one of their imitators is trying hack into your address book, clone your email account, or infect your computer with a virus. And because of all the criminal gangs pretending to be Linkedin, you cannot be sufficiently confident you are joining the real Linkedin or handing over your personal details and address book to a gangs of thieves, who will try to rob you, and as many of you family members and friends as they can. Linkedin offer you no security whatsoever, and will not compensate you for any loss. Their own practices already stray into some very grey areas, so what do they care about guarding your personal details from criminal activity? It’s their business to let as many people have your details as want them. After all, they don’t claim to be a charity.
But I’m not the only one who believes the Linkedin brand is a stain on their image, growing numbers their own subscribers do. Linkedin are having to face mounting legal actions against them for pursuing practices similar to the ones I have already described. Only recently, U.S. District Judge Lucy H. Koh in San Jose, North California gave the green light for a lawsuit against Linkedin to go ahead for violating the privacy of its users. And news of the company’s dubious practices is finally beginning to seep into the mainstream media. Among other news outlets, Britain’s The Guardian ran the story under the title: Linkedin must face privacy lawsuit over contact reminder emails, says judge, on June 13th this year. Bloomberg News also covered the story Linkedin Ordered to Face Customer E-Mail Contacts Lawsuit, leading with a graph showing how Linkedin’s share price may have been be affected by all the bad news. Linkedin’s effort to fight the cases is almost certainly doomed to lead to more class actions being pursued, generating even more bad publicity, and the possibility that members will start to leave in droves.
Linkedin should be investigated by the authorities for malpractice, and overly-aggressive marketing leading to distress. They should own up to the fact the brand has been so severely compromised it now poses a danger to your computer, and your bank accounts. They should also be prosecuted for sending nuisance mail. I would go even further, and suggest there should be a new law introduced to stop abuse of the internet that causes financial or psychological damage, or could lead directly to internet accounts being compromised by third parties. Companies should be obliged to report such abuses by law, once notified, and to compensate the victims for any damages, financial, or psychological, incurred.
All people who feel that Linkedin has overstepped a boundary, beyond which they feel they are being harassed by Linkedin, are invited to share their personal experiences below.
Copyright © 2014 Bryan Hemming