Amnesty International says it’s discovered that a hacking group Called Ocean Lotus continues to be gearing more spyware attacks on Vietnamese human rights activists from the Most Recent blow to freedom of speech in the communist-ruled country
BANGKOK — Amnesty International says it’s found that a hacking group called Ocean Lotus has been staging more spyware attacks on Vietnamese human rights activists from the most recent blow to freedom of speech at the communist-ruled country.
The human rights group said Wednesday that Amnesty Tech’s Security Laboratory found signs of the hacking efforts in phishing emails sent into two dissidents, one in the Philippines and one in Germany.
Cybersecurity firms earlier identified hacking attempts from Ocean Lotus targeting dissidents, governments and companies across Southeast Asia. The hackers are suspected of having ties to Vietnam’s government, which has been cracking down on dissent.
Amnesty urged the Vietnamese government to investigate.
The report stated that the blogger and pro-democracy activist Bui Thanh Hieu was targeted with spyware least four occasions between February 2018 and December 2019. He left Vietnam and has lived in Germany since 2013. It stated another blogger located in Vietnam, that was not named due to fears for their safety, was targeted three times this past year.
A Philippines-based nongovernmental organization, the Vietnamese Overseas Initiative for Conscience Empowerment, or VOICE, has been targeted by hackers in April 2020, the report said.
It said former volunteers and staff for VOICE were plagued, prevented from travel and had their passports seized when they returned to Vietnam.
The Amnesty report also stated that the hacking attempts involved mails pretending to discuss an important document with a link to download a document.
An analysis of the phishing emails indicated they were generated by Ocean Lotus, based on the tools and techniques they used, it stated. The hacking targets Mac OS, Android and Windows operating systems.
“More recently Ocean Lotus was found to have created fake online media websites based on content mechanically gathered from news sites,” the report said.
Vietnam is one of the handful of the world’s remaining communist single-party countries that tolerate no dissent.
Human rights groups have been advocating Vietnam to stop its repressive activities towards critics, found particularly in severe punishments of bloggers.
According to the cybersecurity firm Volexity, OceanLotus was identified as a Vietnam-based hacking group in 2015. The group is suspected of staging complicated, widespread electronic surveillance and assault campaigns since 2013 against some Asian nations, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and many people and groups connected to the media and human rights groups.