Spyware Deluge Hits Vietnam Amid South China Sea Spat

Aug. 10 — The spyware used in cyberattacks on Vietnam’s major airports and national carrier in July is now suspected of having bombarded many more official sites, amid tensions with China over territory in the disputed South China Sea.

A malicious code disguised as anti-virus software found lurking in everything from government offices to banks, major companies and universities was the same as that used in “politically-colored” attacks on two of the country’s biggest airports and Vietnam Airlines, said Ngo Tuan Anh, vice chairman of Hanoi-based network security company Bkav Corp.

On July 29, the flight screens at the airports displayed messages critical of Vietnam’s claims to the South China Sea, according to the VnExpress news website. Vietnam and the Philippines have been the most vocal in criticizing China for its increased assertiveness over the area.

Althoguh more evidence is needed to pinpoint the likely origin, the attacks were clearly political in nature, Anh said. The spyware aimed at Vietnam was from one group or several actors working together that has made assaults on institutions in the Southeast Asian country since 2012, he added. Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

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