Vietnam Airports Hacked: Lack of Cybersecurity a No-Fly

Last Friday, a group of hackers in China allegedly took down the announcement systems in major airports in Vietnam, including Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport and Ho Chi Minh’s Tan Son Nhat Airport – the two biggest in the country. The screens and speakers at the airports then started broadcasting messages insulting Vietnam and the Philippines, claiming China’s sovereignty over the so-called “nine-dash line”.

The incident sparked outrage among Vietnamese, whose relationship with China is already tense due to the South China/East Vietnam Sea conflicts. It also highlights the importance of enhancing cybersecurity in the increasingly connected world.

Airports are one of the most vulnerable sites for cyber attacks due to its visibility and the large impact of any disruption to the system. The recent hacks forced operators in Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat to switch off their networks and check in passengers manually, creating long lines and flight delays. Vietnam Airlines’ website was also hacked, resulting in the personal information of more than 400,000 Vietnam Airlines’ frequent flyers being leaked online.

Vietnam’s state of cybersecurity is low – it is the third most-attacked country in the world, according to Kaspersky’s cyberthreat real-time map (updated at the time of post). Many computer and Internet users, even in government organisations, use little to no protection service, and unlicensed softwares that are more vulnerable. 85 percent of computers have virus infected from USB drives, while 30 percent of banking websites have vulnerabilities – two-third of which are high-level vulnerabilities. In the wake of the hacking incidents, at least 2 commercial banks have temporarily disabled their online banking services, with the rest closely monitoring the system for any unusual transactions.

The inter-connectivity of devices and reliance over technologies for everyday operations expose their users to various threats. A recent study shows that 70 percent of current IoT devices contain serious vulnerabilities. Even your wireless keyboards may not only be sending data to your computer, but also to a hacker tapping on the unencrypted data transmission.

As the ICT sector continues to develop in Vietnam, with ‘smart’ projects sprouting up in various areas and verticals like smart cities, traffic management and smart agriculture, this cyber attack serves as a reminder to prioritise security at the top of any implementation of connected technology – over convenience and novelty – so the damages of cyber attacks can be reduced and/or mitigated.

How do you keep your organisation secured against potential cyber threats? Leave your suggestions/experience down in the comments section below.

Cybersecurity will be discussed at the upcoming 11th edition of Asia IoT Business Platform, taking place in Hanoi, Vietnam at the end of November 2016. For more information, drop me an email at

By: Dinh

Dinh Viet Anh Nguyen

Aug 3, 2016

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