Vietnamese Government Requires Internet Monitoring Software in Hanoi, Human Rights Group Says

June 07, 2010

By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor

A new government requirement – to install monitoring software on computers at Internet cafes, hotels and other public establishments in Hanoi – is getting condemned by human rights advocates.
A Vietnamese reform party, Viet Tan, says that select organizations have ten days to install the software, based on an April 26, 2010 government edict.
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The new rule applies to computers in Internet cafes and hotels, restaurants, offices, airports, and bus stations.
Viet Tan suspects the monitoring software is Green Dam – which is designed to monitor Internet connections and text typed on the computer.
According to a team of researchers from the University of Michigan, including Professor J. Alex Halderman, Green Dam can block politically sensitive content and reports content to authorities.
But PC World says there is at least one major difference between this software and Green Dam, the “Retailers Management Software” lives on a server, not on an individual computer. Vietnamese media reports say the software was developed by the National University of Hanoi, and is expected to be installed in all of the city’s 4,000 Internet cafes by 2011, PC World said.
An earlier government decree forbids “abusing the Internet” to oppose the government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, disclosing national secrets or providing “distorted information,” Viet Tan said.
The organization added that within the last year, Vietnamese authorities have ordered local ISPs to block access to Facebook (NewsAlert) and other social networking sites; detained dozens of bloggers; and launched hacker attacks against opposition websites and Internet users based in the United States and Europe.
U.S. Representative Anh “Jospeh” Cao, LA-2, the only Vietnamese-American member of Congress, has been a vocal critic of these kinds of actions and remains very concerned, a spokesman said today.
He has proposed legislation that would repeal the Vietnamese laws that restrict an individual’s Internet usage and calls for the release of all political prisoners who have been incarcerated under the false pretenses of “causing unrest and disturbance.”
On March 31, 2010, Cao condemned what appears to have been a politically-motivated cyber attack launched from China on Vietnamese computer users and dissident web sites.
Google (NewsAlert) disclosed the attack on its Internet security web site and reported that potentially tens of thousands of computers had been infected when they downloaded compromised software from a site that offered Vietnamese-language keyboard software.
Google said the malware was not especially sophisticated, but it was damaging to computers: “These infected machines have been used both to spy on their owners as well as participate in distributed denial of service, DDoS, attacks against blogs containing messages of political dissent.”
“This event shows that the international community needs to start taking cyber-security seriously,” Cao said in March following the incident. “The Chinese and Vietnamese governments must respect the freedom of expression for Internet bloggers and users.”
The Vietnamese government could not be reached for immediate comment.

Ed Silverstein is a contributing editor for TMCnet’s InfoTech Spotlight. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison

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