A honeytrap hacker attempted to steal secrets about Britain’s stealth fighter jets through Tinder, it has emerged as the Armed Forces are warned over their use of online dating.
An RAF airwoman’s dating profile was hijacked by a suspected spy who then got in touch with another RAF serviceman to try and sweet talk details of the F-35 stealth fighter out of him.
Though the source of the hack is unknown, the news comes amid concern about countries such as China and Russia using cyber attacks in a new era of warfare.
Both countries are said to be desperate to acquire the secrets of the F-35 Lightning II fighter. The first planes from the £9bn project arrived in Britain two months ago.
However, the RAF has confirmed that no secrets were released and the man who was targeted is not even connected to the F-35 programme.
The woman noticed that her account had been hacked and informed bosses almost immediately.
The news prompted a warning from the RAF’s head of security on July 9, with an internal memo seen by The Mail on Sunday stating: “Within the last week a serving member of the RAF had their online dating profile hacked. It subsequently transpired that the perpetrator then attempted to befriend another serving member of the RAF to apparently elicit comment and detail on F-35.
“Fortunately, little information was disclosed and the individual whose account had been hacked reported this matter expediently enabling prompt follow-up action and investigation.
“Nevertheless, this incident serves to highlight the risk of social engineering (SE) and online reconnaissance against social media profiles that disclose links to HM Forces.”
It describes social engineering as the “psychological manipulation to elicit confidential or sensitive information” which is says could take place over the phone, in a bar, or over the internet.
It adds that “UK military posture, policy and capabilities continue to be significant targets of interest for hostile state and non-state actors”.
In the wake of the attack a warning was issued to service personnel to remain vigilant about their social media and online dating profiles.
They were reminded of the guidance surrounding online use, which has recently been updated.
Though the guidance is not publicly available, previous guidance has warned about sharing too much personal information such as their service or organization and banned troops from giving away sensitive information such as troop movements or exercises.
All service personnel are bound by the Official Secrets Act and could face jail for sharing information with a foreign state.
An RAF spokesman said: “No F-35 secrets have been stolen. No F-35 information of a sensitive or classified nature has been disclosed via a dating site. The member of RAF personnel involved is not even associated with the F-35 programme.”
Britain has committed to buying 138 F-35 fighter aircraft and has so far bought 48 at a cost of £9.1 billion. It is the most expensive weapons system in military history.
News of the hack comes just months after the arrest of Bryn Jones the former chief combustion technologist with Rolls Royce, which provides part of the F-35 engines.
The 73-year-old, who was also a visiting professor at the Aeronautical University of Xian, is suspected of passing information to the Chinese.
The investigation continues and Mr Jones is understood to deny all wrongdoing.