A Vietnamese official has shot back at the claims by Google and McAfee of a widespread malware attack targeting dissidents protesting mining operations in that country.
Nguyen Phuong Nga, a spokeswoman for the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, offered a firm denial in response to media inquiries about the malware incident .
“Such comments are groundless,” she said in a statement. “We have on many occasions clearly expounded our view on issues relating to access to and use of information and information technology, including the Internet.”
Last week, Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) described a malware attack that targeted Vietnamese activists around the world who had taken to the Web to organize and protest against the government’s mining agreement with Chalco, a subsidiary of Chinalco, a Chinese state-run concern. At issue are the bauxite mining operations in Vietnam’s Central Highlands region, which critics warn are exacting a heavy environmental toll.
The attack, which was first discovered by McAfee (NYSE: MFE), purportedly replaced a Vietnamese-language keyboard driver with a Trojan, which the authors then used to assemble a botnet and deploy denial-of-service attacks aimed at knocking dissident blogs offline. Such attach methodologies have become commonplace in recent years, targeting everyone from unprotected consumers to high-level corporate executives privy to critical company information.
The official state denial of the attacks is also reminiscent of the Chinese response to Google’s allegations of cyber threats in that country.
“Vietnam law puts in place specific regulations against computer virus and malware as well as on information security and confidentiality,” the spokeswoman said.
McAfee said that the incident involving Vietnamese activists coincided with the attacks Google said emanated from China, but that they seemed to be unrelated. Nevertheless, the mining operations highlight the nervous relationship many Vietnamese have with their largest neighbor.
McAfee CTO George Kurtz said the Vietnam attacks appeared to be “politically motivated.”
China involvement in cyber attacks highlighted
Separately, Chinese officials have offered their own denial of state involvement in cyber attack operations, seeking to debunk a new report describing a vast criminal and espionage syndicate based in China dubbed the Shadow network.
The report, released Monday by the Information Warfare Monitor and the Shadowserver Foundation, does not directly link the Chinese government with the operations of the Shadow network, but calls for a global cyber convention and a set of international agreements that would put “the onus on states to not tolerate or encourage mischievous networks whose activities operate from within their jurisdictions.”
The official response reported in the state-run news agency Xinhua was similar to the repeated denials the government has made in response to Google’s allegations.
“Some reports have, from time to time, been heard of insinuating or criticizing the Chinese government. … I have no idea what evidence they have or what motives lie behind,” said Jiang Yu, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.