Hackers leave 'pro-China' notes on Viet systems

Activists hold anti-China placards during a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Manila on July 12.
Activists hold anti-China placards during a protest in front of the Chinese consulate in Manila on July 12. PHOTO: AFP

Messages criticising Hanoi, Manila over South China Sea claims appear on airline website, airports' info screens

HANOI • Hackers have attacked the website of a national airline and flight information screens at Vietnam's two biggest airports, posting notices that state media said criticised the Philippines and Vietnam and their claims in the South China Sea.

Operators of airports in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City had to briefly halt electronic check-ins when their systems were attacked last Friday afternoon, the country's civil aviation authority said.

The website of Vietnam Airlines was also compromised, directing browsers to what the flag carrier described as "bad websites overseas".

State-run media said the messages were about the South China Sea and denounced Vietnam and the Philippines, which are at odds with Beijing over maritime sovereignty.

Vietnamese media said the hack was claimed by a group called 1937CN.

Reuters was not able to immediately verify the content of the messages. It is also not clear if the hackers were from China.

The region is on edge, facing diplomatic dilemmas in the wake of a July 12 ruling by an arbitral court that declared Chinese claims to most of the South China Sea as having no legal grounds.

Beijing has called the ruling farcical and refuses to recognise it.

The decision was favourable to the plaintiff, Manila, and by extension, Hanoi, which has similar disagreements with China about its island-building and the conduct of its vast coastguard fleet in the South China Sea.

Vietnamese Vice-Minister for Transport Nguyen Nhat said the content displayed by the hackers offended his nation and the Philippines, Thanh Nien news reported, without elaborating.

The report said the same picture from the information screens was posted on the Vietnam Airlines website, with "distorting content" about the situation in the South China Sea.

The hacks came just days after a Chinese tourist complained to his government about what happened at one of the hacked airports - Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City - BBC news reported.

China had asked Vietnam to look into media reports that two pages of the passport of a Chinese visitor were scribbled with obscenities by a Vietnamese official.

Pictures reportedly show a four-letter word written on the pages that contained a map, including China's "nine-dash line" that marks China's claim to territories in the South China Sea.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 31, 2016, with the headline 'Hackers leave 'pro-China' notes on Viet systems'. Print Edition | Subscribe