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

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs