Google detects more hacks on human rights activists

Search outfit Google, which claims that it pulled out of China because of hacks on human-rights groups, has noticed something similar going on in Vietnam.

The search engine said that it has detected software targeted at critics of bauxite mining in Vietnam.

Tens of thousands of people who downloaded Vietnamese language software have found that they are infected with malicious software that spies on users and hijacks computers to disrupt websites.

Neel Mehta, of Google’s security team, wrote on Google’s online security blog that while the malware itself was not especially sophisticated, it has nonetheless been used for damaging purposes.

He said the attacks are aimed at killing opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam.

It said the Vietnamese and Chinese cyber attacks were comparable as they demonstrated the use of unsolicited software for political objectives.

Of course there are other similarities. The aluminium company Chinalco in the centre of the row is owned by China. The site has fuelled Vietnamese nationalist and anti-Chinese sentiment.

Experts on spooks believe that the hacks were probably organised by the Vietnamese security services.

Carlyle Thayer, a politics professor at the University of NSW’s Australian Defence Force Academy, told AP that China is concerned about growing anti-China sentiment and is trying to get Vietnam to self-censor itself.

It is not clear if Google staff in Vietnam should start packing their bags or dusting off their resumes.