The Scottish Government is using a new app designed to prevent foreign spooks from targeting civil servants on social media platforms.

The Think Before You Link app is to be used by government staff after being developed by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI).

More than 10,000 UK nationals from across society were targeted on sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook in the last year, according to MI5. The use of fake profiles on social media and professional networking sites is occurring at scale. In the first half of last year alone, LinkedIn stopped 11.6m fake accounts at registration.

Current and former civil servants can also be attractive targets because of their experience and if their positions are listed on sites such as LinkedIn, with this carrying the risk of fake offers of lucrative consultancy work if they connect with unknown users. The app will therefore boost the support and advice which government staff and particularly those working on sensitive policy, already receive.

The app will allow users of social media and professional networking sites to better identify the hallmarks of fake profiles used by foreign spies and other malicious actors, and take steps to report and remove them.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government routinely makes use of CPNI security campaign tools and resources including ‘Think Before You Link’ and ‘Don’t take the Bait’ which are regularly promoted internally as part of staff security training and awareness campaigns.

“We are also working with our partners and stakeholders to explore how we can further promote these new tools and resources to businesses, academia and the wider public so that Scotland is better prepared to understand how to protect Scotland’s people and information from the growing threat of international digital espionage.”

Director general of MI5 Ken McCallum said: ”MI5 has seen over 10,000 disguised approaches on professional networking sites from foreign spies to people up and down the UK. Foreign spies are actively working to build relationships with those working in government, in high-tech business and in academia.

“The Think Before You Link app helps those who may be receiving disguised approaches, helping them to conduct their own digital due diligence before accepting unknown contacts online.”