Vietnam-Affiliated Cybercriminals Try Installing Spyware on US Lawmakers, Journalists’ Phones Through Social Media Platforms

Cybercriminals aligned with Vietnam tried to infiltrate the devices of US lawmakers and journalists by installing spyware.
Cybercriminals aligned with Vietnam tried to infiltrate the devices of US lawmakers and journalists by installing spyware. (DavidWhelan/WikimediaCommons)

Cybercriminals associated with Vietnam tried to hack the phones of US lawmakers, CNN journalists, and United Nations officials. Hackers would use social media platforms Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) to install spyware on their devices.

Vietnam-Based Cybercriminals Tried Hacking Phones Through Social Media Platforms to Install Spyware

Spywares are designed to embezzle call and text data from phones. Hackers are targeting the social media accounts of Democratic Sens. Gary Peters and Chris Murphy and House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul, also a Republican congressman.

Researchers said they’re clueless about any accomplished infections utilising the spyware. However, the attack to undermine powerful lawmakers by just tweeting at them will mount further concerns on Capitol Hill regarding the burgeoning of commercial spyware.

Generally, spyware operators manoeuvre in the shadows. However, in this case, the cybercriminals had no hesitation about attempting to use a public platform to attract their targets.

“It was quite a brazen and somewhat reckless way to try target people with some quite sophisticated spyware. Clearly, these tools are being exported from the EU to states with terrible human rights records. Then not only are they turned against journalists and human rights defenders, but also against politicians and institutions who should be meaningfully regulating these exports,” said Donncha Ó Cearbhaill, head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab.

Together with his investigators, Ó Cearbhaill is very certain of the links between Vietnam and the hackers. They referenced contract records that EIC reviewed between the company affiliated with the spyware and the Vietnamese government.

Was it Just a Coincidence?

The recent incident seems awkward since Washington just declared a refreshed relationship with Vietnam. Amnesty International accused the Southeast Asian country of obtaining the Predator spyware and utilising it for criminal activities.

Intellexa made Predator, which the US banned. When installed on Android smartphones, the spyware could record audio and steal information from messaging apps. Amnesty International said that Predator is extremely invasive and gets complete access to all data stored or transmitted from the victim’s device. The spyware can be installed using a zero-click attack or by an attacker in close proximity to a device.