Don't hack back: Vietnam's cyber community told to show restraint after attack

By Vo Van Thanh, Vo Hai   August 2, 2016 | 08:39 pm PT
A tit-for-tat response to the recent cyber attacks at two major airports would be unwise.

The Vietnamese government has made clear that it takes the cyber attacks on the two major airports last Friday seriously and is stepping up efforts to stop similar incidents in the future, but the response by the local technology community to the incident should be restrained.

“Such incidents are highly likely to occur [again in the future], so we have to beef up our vigilance by investing more in human resources and technology,” Truong Minh Tuan, Minister of Information and Communications, said at a press briefing Tuesday after a regular cabinet meeting.

The minister urged the Vietnamese technology community not to take provocative action against foreign hackers.

He said the local technology community should conform to the law and comply with professional ethics.

“An investigation into technical issues must be conducted. [In the meantime], we have to remain calm and discreet and we should not make flawed assumptions,” Tuan continued.


Truong Minh Tuan, Minister of Communication and Information, urged the Vietnamese technology community not to take provocative action against foreign hackers. Photo from VGP.

Information screens and speaker systems at Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat airports in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, respectively, were hijacked last Friday and broadcast derogatory messages about Vietnam and the Philippines over their stance on South China Sea dispute, or the East Sea as it is known in Vietnam. One suggestion floating around Vietnam’s online community is to “hack back” following the cyber attacks.

Foreign hackers, allegedly from China, also launched cyber attacks on the website of Vietnam Airlines 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.

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

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

The potential risks of similar cyber attacks is down to the fact that the majority of Vietnamese technology companies, including internet services providers, use cheap equipment made in China, according to Vietnamese officials and security experts.

Moreover, nowadays network and server equipment all use at least some Chinese-sourced components. Chinese manufacturers have become a prominent player in the global supply chain for telecommunications products.

Vietnamese authorities have assessed the risk of using Chinese IT equipment, said Minister Tuan. He added that personal computers manufactured by Lenovo have been banned from being used to access classified government networks in some countries including the U.S., Australia, Canada and New Zealand over fears that the Chinese government may have altered the equipment’s firmware or added backdoors to the hardware to allow it to be monitored by espionage agencies.

The Vietnamese government is set to conduct a comprehensive assessment to come up with a set of standards applied to IT equipment used for the country’s most important information networks, Tuan said.

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