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Vietnam Raises Its Concern Over Cyber security

Security advisers offer some basic reminders to increase safety online.

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To avoid these health issues little breaks in between long hours are very much required.

At one of An Nguyen’s old jobs in Hanoi, she had a daily ritual: When she wanted to log in to the computer, she had to answer a cybersecurity question such as “What is spear phishing?” or “How does malware work?”

Nguyen did not work in the technology industry, but this was her employer’s way of making sure that all staff had at least a basic understanding of good cyber awareness.

Vietnam could use more people like Nguyen, according to security professionals. They say the country’s small businesses, in particular, do not realize how big a threat they face from hackers or other sources of data breaches.

“Cybersecurity for us, sometimes we are too confident — or maybe we are ignorant,” Nguyen, who has since started her own business, said regarding Vietnamese apathy toward computer security. “So we don’t care much about that.”

But small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should care, cyber professionals say, especially considering the factors that make security risks even more acute in Vietnam. These include the Southeast Asian country’s widespread use of pirated software, the high internet penetration among a tech-loving society without the IT support to match, and the love-hate relationship with China.

Vietnam Office
Small businesses take advantage of co-working spaces like this one, in Ho Chi Minh City, but many haven’t taken steps to protect themselves online. VOA

There are two kinds of people, said Vu Minh Tri, vice president of cloud services at the gaming company VNG, deploying a favorite global cliche — those who have been hacked, and those who do not know that they have been hacked.

“There is a very true saying that there is no company, or no organization, or no computer not impacted by malware,” Tri said. “There’s only organizations, computers, or people not aware the computer is impacted. So all are impacted. It’s just a matter of whether you’re aware or not.”

A new wrinkle in the story comes from neighboring China, with some cyber-attacks believed to be related to its Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to connect many countries from Asia to Europe through infrastructure projects. Research from the security firm Fireeye suggests Chinese hackers may be used either to defend Beijing’s partners in the Belt and Road, such as Cambodia, or to target those that do not play ball, like Malaysia.

Vietnam has taken a cautious approach to the initiative, with some scholars expressing concern about risks like burdensome loans and over-reliance on China. The Southeast Asian country also has reason to worry about potential cyber fallout. In one famous case, Chinese internet protocol addresses were suspected in the 2016 hack of Vietnamese airports, where screens displayed messages challenging Hanoi’s claims in the South China Sea.

“In this digital era, Asia Pacific region has become the largest digital market in the world, creating tremendous business opportunities for SMEs,” Jason Kao, director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation’s SME crisis management center, told small businesses at a Ho Chi Minh City workshop his office sponsored last week.

Vietnam Office
Cyber security awareness has not kept up with the popularity of internet cafes in Vietnam. VOA

But not enough of these small and medium-sized enterprises are paying attention to online security, Kao warned.

“Since more businesses use computers to connect their customers and store data, cyber-attacks and data leaks can cause serious harm,” he said.

The cost burden is understandable, though, he added.

On the one hand, a small business might be too little to attract the unwanted attention of hackers. On the other hand, they might be too small to bear the expense of insuring or guarding against attacks.

“As we talk about cost and benefit, we know that we have to buy insurance contracts, we know that we have to protect ourselves,” Nguyen said. “But we don’t have enough resources.”

That is the reason ripped software remains popular in Vietnam, earning it a spot among countries to watch in the U.S. Trade Representative’s report on intellectual property. Thanks to this pirated software, overseas hackers can access Vietnamese computers, which they use in denial of service attacks – sending so many requests to target websites that the sites become overloaded and shut down.

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At the same time Vietnam lacks the information technology specialists who can alleviate some of these dangers. By one estimate, the country could face a shortage of one million IT staffers by 2020.

In the meantime, security advisers offer some basic reminders to increase safety online. Do not click on links, in emails or otherwise, if they are even slightly questionable. Use strong passwords and do not reuse them across different accounts. And of course, avoid pirated software to increase your cybersecurity. (VOA)

Next Story

USAID Launches $183mn Cleanup at Vietnam Storage Site for Agent Orange

The spillover from the clearing operation is believed to have seeped beyond the base and into groundwater and rivers, and is linked to severe mental and physical disabilities across generations of Vietnamese

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agent orange
FILE - A Vietnamese soldier stands guard at the dioxin-contaminated area at Bien Hoa airbase, where the U.S. Army stored the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, in Bien Hoa city, outside Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, October 17, 2018. VOA

The U.S. launched on Saturday a $183 million cleanup at a former Vietnam storage site for Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant used in the nations’ bitter war, which years later is still blamed for severe birth defects, cancers and disabilities.

Located outside Ho Chi Minh City, Bien Hoa air base — the latest site scheduled for rehabilitation after Danang air base’s cleanup last year — was one of the main storage grounds for Agent Orange and was only hastily cleared by soldiers near the war’s end more than four decades ago.

U.S. forces sprayed 80 million liters (21 million gallons) of Agent Orange over South Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 in a desperate bid to flush out Viet Cong communist guerrillas by depriving them of tree cover and food.

agent orange
US Arm APC spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam. Wikimedia

The spillover from the clearing operation is believed to have seeped beyond the base and into groundwater and rivers, and is linked to severe mental and physical disabilities across generations of Vietnamese — from enlarged heads to deformed limbs.

Largest ‘hot spot’ left

At Bien Hoa, more than 500,000 cubic meters of dioxin had contaminated the soil and sediment, making it the “largest remaining hot spot” in Vietnam, said a statement from the U.S. Agency for International Development, which kicked off a 10-year remediation effort Saturday.

The dioxin amounts in Bien Hoa are four times more than the volume cleaned up at Danang airport, a six-year, $110 million effort that was completed in November.

“The fact that two former foes are now partnering on such a complex task is nothing short of historic,” said the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, Daniel Kritenbrink, at Saturday morning’s launch, which was attended by Vietnamese military officials and U.S. senators.

USAID, agent orange
USAID Launches Latest Cleanup of Agent Orange Site. Wikimedia

Hanoi says up to 3 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, and that 1 million suffer grave health repercussions today — including at least 150,000 children with birth defects.

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An attempt by Vietnamese victims to obtain compensation from the United States has met with little success. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2009 declined to take up the case, while neither the U.S. government nor the manufacturers of the chemical have ever admitted liability.

While U.S. officials have never admitted direct links between Agent Orange and birth defects, USAID on Saturday also issued a “memorandum of intent” to work with government agencies to improve the lives of people with disabilities in seven Vietnamese provinces. (VOA)