News / Science & Technology

Vietnam’s Digital Dreams Held Back by Malware 'Epidemic'

FILE - Vietnamese people work with computers at a media center in Hanoi.
FILE - Vietnamese people work with computers at a media center in Hanoi.
Marianne Brown
Vietnam is planning to develop a vibrant digital economy in the next 10 years, but computer analysts say it still has a long way to go. Most of the software used in the country is pirated, computer users in the country are experiencing an ‘epidemic’ of malware attacks, and observers say the government is not doing enough to respond.

Vietnam’s information, communications and technology sector has grown rapidly over the last 10 years and the government has high hopes for its future, with plans to become a center for Information Technology, or " IT," outsourcing in the next decade.

But to capture its share of the knowledge economy, experts say more has to be done to address cyber security in Vietnam.

One major stumbling block is malicious software, known as malware, which is used to disrupt or damage computer operations, steal data or access private computer systems.

Vietnam is consistently among the top five distributors of spam and malware in the world, said Michael Mudd, Chair of Information Technology, Intellectual property and Telecommunications Committee at the American Chamber of Commerce.

He said Vietnam is facing a malware “epidemic,” mainly because of lack of awareness about the problem.

“In the countries that have been involved in IT for longer, they are more aware of anti-virus programs. Everywhere I go in Vietnam, I go in places and offices and stuff like this, and hardly any computer, apart from the very big ones, are protected by any anti-virus program at all,” he explained.

The issue of malware is a very reactive one, you do not do anything until it hits you, said Wahab Yusoff, Vice President of the South Asia region for global computer software company McAfee.

“I think awareness is increasing but I think there’s a sense of laissez faire, I’m not being affected, but awareness is increasing," Yusoff said. "Compared to Singapore it’s a much smaller country and community, it’s less in terms of awareness and maturity but it’s definitely on the rise.”

The use of pirated software is one of the main ways malware can access computers systems.

According to U.S.-based Business Software Alliance, around 81 percent of computers in Vietnam use pirated software. Mudd said infected computers could take up to 20 percent of available bandwidth, incurring substantial economic costs.

Compromised computers can be used to launch attacks on other computers.

Pham Hoang Mien is co-owner of events website Hanoi Grapevine.

Last week the site went offline for a day after being subject to a “distributed brute force attack”, which means a large number of compromised computers were automatically trying to log into the site. The purpose of attacks like these are often to obtain personal information.

Records indicate many of the computers involved in the attack were located within Vietnam.

“Clients keep calling and e-mailing to say ‘so, when is it going to be online, we put an ad there and now it’s gone so what’s going to happen next?’ Or some people messaged us to say ‘we are going to Hanoi this weekend, but I cannot access the site so what is going on, can you tell me?’ And I’m going ‘well, actually I’m just like you," Mien stated. "Without our site I also don’t know what’s going on in town.”

The economic implications can have a national impact, said McAfee’s Yusoff, because malware has the potential to disable national infrastructure. He gives the example of cash machines.

“We’ve heard so many stories in the past in Europe and the U.S. where ATMs are brought down and countries are made to suffer because ATMs are not available for two weeks. So issues like that which can actually bring a country’s economy down to its knees,”

Mudd said to tackle the problem, Vietnam does not need more “antivirus scientists with four-year degree programs,” but an army of IT 'plumbers' who can maintain computer systems properly and get rid of the preloaded malware coming in with the machines.

He says to achieve Vietnam’s IT dreams, education about cyber security should start early, even at school age, so people understand the value of investing in legitimate software and antivirus programs.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs