Hackers working on behalf of the Vietnamese government attempted to break into Chinese organisations heading up the country's coronavirus response, according to infosec outfit FireEye.
APT32, a hacking group previously linked to the Vietnamese government, tried to access the personal and professional email addresses of staff at China's Ministry of Emergency Management and the government of Wuhan, where it is believed the pandemic started, according to a report released by FireEye yesterday.
Between January and April, APT32 sent Chinese officials phishing emails that contained a tracking link claiming to direct the reader to a report on office equipment bids. When clicked, the link would report back to the hackers, indicating that they the trigger-happy user was vulnerable to malware.
FireEye said the attacks mirror other attempts by state-backed hackers to collect information about the virus.
"The COVID-19 crisis poses an intense, existential concern to governments, and the current air of distrust is amplifying uncertainties, encouraging intelligence collection on a scale that rivals armed conflict," the FireEye team concluded in their report.
"National, state or provincial, and local governments, as well as non-government organizations and international organizations, are being targeted, as seen in reports... Until this crisis ends, we anticipate related cyber espionage will continue to intensify globally."
Vietnam responded quickly to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus earlier this year. It sealed off its borders with China and implemented an aggressive program of contract tracing and quarantining citizens. Today the nation claimed and only 268 overall. So just why it needs to look at China's virus-fighters is unclear.
Tensions between Vietnam and China are high, as the former nation this week protested the latter's extension of its domestic administration units to cover disputed islands in the South China Sea. ®