Information about the state-of-the-art US jets was leaked to mysterious wrongdoers in a movie-like plot, the UK military confirmed to the British tabloid. The perpetrator set a classic honey trap for a crew members working on F-35 fighter project.
Someone hacked the Tinder profile of a female RAF staffer, then contacted another servicemen posing as this woman and sweet-talked him to sharing information about the expensive US stealth fighter. It is unclear who the perpetrator was or what international powers may have orchestrated the plot.
The woman whose account was hacked quickly reported the incident, enabling prompt follow-up and an investigation, according to an RAF warning memo, cited by the Daily Mail.
“Fortunately, little information was disclosed and the individual whose account had been hacked reported this matter expediently […] Nevertheless, this incident serves to highlight the risk of social engineering and online reconnaissance against social media profiles that disclose links to HM Forces,” the memo, written by the RAF’s Principal Security Advisor, reads.
The memo, cited by the British outlet, warns military staffers against the risks of what it calls social engineering (SE), what it describes as “psychological manipulation to elicit confidential or sensitive information.”
“SE can be instigated over the phone or in a social setting (i.e. in a bar) as well as online. A skilled and convincing operative will aim to elicit information through friendship, sympathy and/or obligation in order to accumulate pieces of information to build up a bigger picture,” the RAF claims, warning that “UK military posture, policy and capabilities continue to be significant targets of interest for hostile state and non-state actors.”
Commenting on the memo, the RAF told the Daily Mail that it cannot discuss security measures.
"However, we can confirm that our procedures are under constant review and are regularly updated to ensure correct guidance is available for our people. This has recently been completed with respect to online use," the authority stated.
According to the report, the incident occurred just weeks after the first four aircraft were delivered to RAF Marham base in Norfolk, England.
The total cost of the US-led program to purchase and maintain the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II for the UK is set to reach some $11.7 billion. The British military plans to purchase 138 of the jets, each costing about $120 million.