Vietnamese banks freeze online payments after cyber attacks at 2 major airports

By Thanh Thanh Lan   July 31, 2016 | 09:15 pm PT
Vietnam Airlines' customers may be at risk after alleged Chinese hackers stole personal details.

Commercial banks in Vietnam have suspended online payments via credit cards after Vietnam’s largest airports, Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, were allegedly attacked by a Chinese hacker group known as 1937CN.

Partly private Vietinbank, one of the country's biggest banks by assets, said the bank has taken the move until it can ensure there are no security risks.

This decision means that customers who use the bank’s credit card services to buy tickets on the Vietnam Airlines website will be unable to do so until the matter is resolved.

“This is an appropriate move as we haven’t fully assessed the effects of the cyber attacks,” said an executive of Vietinbank.


Banks have issued an announcement via mobile texts about the move to suspsend the use of credit cards to make online payments following last Friday's attack at the country's international airports. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Thanh Lan.

Techcombank, a partly private Vietnamese bank 20 percent owned by HSBC, said it has frozen the credit cards of customers who entered their credit card details on the Vietnam Airlines website last Friday, when the cyber-attacks happened.

A Hanoi-based bank said the public should not be worried about credit card security since the airline's online booking system is protected by “3D secure”, which ensures the security of online payments.

Banking experts said with “3D secure”, customers who enter their credit card numbers and proceed to payment are asked to submit a password from their bank in order to complete the transaction.

Some banks have decided not to suspend the use of credit cards for online transactions but said they will keep a careful watch on such payments. Sacombank said all transactions made by the bank’s card holders will be closely monitored.

An industry expert said it is quite difficult to assess how secure the Vietnam Airlines information database is and advised people against using credit cards that have been entered on the airline's website over the past month.

The website of Vietnam’s national carrier and flight information screens at the country’s biggest airports were attacked by hackers, allegedly from China, on the afternoon of July 29.

State media said screens displaying flight information and loudspeakers at both international airports in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City were taken over by the hackers to broadcast messages insulting Vietnam and the Philippines over their stance on the dispute in the South China Sea, or the East Sea as it is known in Vietnam.

The screens and the sound systems at the airports had to be switched off, said the country's civil aviation authority.

The official website of Vietnam Airlines also came under attack with the same derogatory slogans that appeared on the airports’ screens. The customer database of 400,000 members of Vietnam Airlines’ frequent fliers club, Golden Lotus, was hacked and the names and other personal information of customers were later leaked on the internet.

Deputy Minister of Transport Nguyen Nhat said the hack did not affect security or air traffic control at the airports.

The hack affected some 100 flights which were delayed by between 15 minutes and two hours, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) said in a statement, after the attack interrupted the airports electronic check-in systems.

Security at the airports was tightened shortly after the attack, the CAAV added.

The hackers claimed to be a group known as 1937CN from China, which has a history of hacking websites in Vietnam and the Philippines.

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