Internet giant Google says Vietnamese computer users have been spied on and political blogs hacked in attacks that a leading web security firm suspects are linked to the Vietnamese government.
The incidents recall cyber-attacks in China that Google in January said had struck it and other unidentified firms in an apparent bid to hack into the email accounts of Chinese human rights activists.
“These infected machines have been used both to spy on their owners as well as participate in distributed denial of service attacks against blogs containing messages of political dissent,” said Neel Mehta of Google’s security team in the firm’s Online Security Blog.
Perpetrators of the Vietnamese attacks “may have political motivations and may have some allegiance to the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, George Kurtz, chief technology officer of California-based Internet security firm McAfee, wrote in his Security Insights Blog.
Vietnamese authorities could not immediately comment.
Kurtz said McAfee had been sharing the results of its investigation with United States-based Google which, in its own blog posting late on Tuesday, said malicious software had infected the computers of potentially tens of thousands of users around the world.
“Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country,” Mehta wrote.
A Western diplomat told Agence France-Presse that about 25 websites have been hacked since the beginning of the year.
“I didn’t know how they were doing it and this sort of explains the process,” said the diplomat, requesting anonymity.
Google said the malicious software infected computers of users who downloaded Vietnamese language software, and possibly other legitimate software, that was altered to infect them.
Analysts, rights groups and diplomats say the human rights situation in Vietnam has been worsening.
In December Western donors said the country’s restrictions on news media and internet sites such as Facebook threatened its rapid economic progress.
Following the Chinese cyber-attacks, Google last week stopped censoring its search engine results in that country. — AFP