Google Inc’s announcement that hackers behind attacks on politically sensitive websites in Vietnam were located within the country came as no surprise, administrators of those websites said Wednesday.
In a post dated March 30, Google security expert Neel Mehta said the company had confirmed the existence of malware originating from Vietnam that “broadly targeted Vietnamese computer users around the world.”
Google and the anti-virus software company McAfee Inc said a computer virus of the trojan-horse type, had established a virtual network of infected computers known as a botnet.
Controllers inside Vietnam then directed the botnet to stage attacks on websites that criticized Chinese-run bauxite mines in Vietnam’s Central Highlands area.
The controversial bauxite mines have been criticized by scientists on environmental grounds and by military figures on national-security grounds.
Websites such as www.boxitvn.com have been repeatedly disabled by attacks that began December 12.
Writer Pham Toan told German Press Agency dpa that he and other administrators of the site initially believed the cyber-attacks originated in China.
However, Toan said he was led to believe that the attacks came at least in part from within the country when Vietnamese police began interrogating him and others involved with the sites.
Similar attacks have also hit other independent Vietnamese websites. In December hackers accessed the literary website www.talawas.org, based outside Vietnam, and posted a message saying it had closed due to technical problems. They then launched attacks that forced the site to close until February 1.
The website is still subject to periodic attacks, a source close to Talawas said.
The independent discussion forum X-Cafe was forced to move from Vietnam to servers in Europe.
According to a blog post Wednesday by McAfee the virus originally hit the website of the Vietnam Professional Organization, is a politically independent emigre organization based in the US and Europe.
By getting users to download supposed Vietnamese-language keyboard software, the virus spread to some 800,000 users.
“Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country,” Metha said.
“We believe that the perpetrators may have political motivations and may have some allegiance to the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam,” McAfee’s statement said.