Is Vietnam Playing a Double Game?
While the U.S. and Vietnam recently signed a major cooperation agreement, the Vietnamese government has been accused of attempting to spy on U.S. officials and journalists. According to a forensic analysis by a consortium of media outlets, including The Washington Post, Vietnamese agents tried to plant spyware on the phones of U.S. policy experts1, members of Congress, and journalists.
- Targeted Individuals: Prominent U.S. figures like Rep. Michael McCaul and Sen. Chris Murphy were targeted.
- Spyware Used: Predator, a powerful hacking software, was deployed.
- Social Network: The agents utilized the social network called “X,” previously known as Twitter.
- Timing: The attempt coincided with the U.S.-Vietnam cooperation agreement aimed at countering China’s influence.
- State Department Response: U.S. officials have yet to comment on whether they raised this issue with the Vietnamese government.
The spyware used in these hacking attempts is known as Predator. It rivals Pegasus, another well-known surveillance tool, in its capabilities. Predator can remotely turn on device microphones and cameras, access files, and even read end-to-end encrypted messages.
The Vietnamese agents used Twitter (Now known as X) to lure their targets. They tried to induce politicians and journalists to visit specific websites designed to install Predator. The audacious effort involved publicly posting the links on this social platform.
The timing of these cyberattacks is significant. They occurred while the U.S. and Vietnam were negotiating a crucial agreement to counter China’s growing influence in Asia. This raises questions about the Vietnamese government’s motives and the potential risk posed to the United States.
Companies like Intellexa and Cytrox distribute Predator. They are now on the U.S. Commerce Department’s “Entity List,” which restricts U.S. businesses from dealing with them without a license. Despite these measures, the spyware industry seems to be outpacing regulatory oversight.
The U.S. is now facing a complex scenario, with even allied nations potentially engaging in cyber espionage.
The recent cyber espionage attempts by Vietnam serve as a wake-up call. Even as countries collaborate on diplomatic fronts, the cyber domain remains a battleground. As spyware technologies continue to evolve, the need for stringent regulations and proactive security measures becomes ever more urgent.
Would you trust your national security with countries that engage in such covert activities? This incident serves as a stark reminder that in the realm of international politics and cybersecurity, things are rarely as straightforward as they seem.
- https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2023/10/09/vietnam-predator-hack-investigation/ ↩︎