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Spyware, phone tracking apps rampant in Vietnam: pundit

Spyware, phone tracking apps rampant in Vietnam: pundit

Thursday, June 26, 2014, 15:05 GMT+7

The recent discovery of a company selling an illegal phone tracking app in Hanoi is just the tip of the iceberg as the market of spyware and phone tapping apps in Vietnam is getting more and more complicated, an Internet security expert has remarked.

Hanoi police announced earlier this week that they had found tech firm Viet Hong Co having its illegal app installed on more than 14,000 Android phones.

The company was able to manipulate data – including text messages, recorded phone calls, and GPS positions – its customers secretly collected from their victims.

But Ngo Tuan Anh, deputy chairman of Internet security at Bkav, a local IT security firm also based in the capital city, asserted that it is only a single case among numerous ones.

Smartphone apps that allow people to discreetly track others are publicly advertised on many Vietnamese-language websites, Anh said.

On one such website, a man who introduces himself only as S. boasts about a spy app that can work well on all popular operating systems, from Symbian and MeeGo to iOS and Android.

Once installed on the tracked smartphone, the app can record in and out phone calls, eavesdropping on ongoing calls, recording video calls, accessing phone books and photo galleries, and even remotely controlling the device via SMS, the man said.

“The app is hidden and can never be known,” he claimed, adding installation and operation cost VND8 million (US$377) a year.

Luc Thanh Tuan, director of a large mobile phone supermarket in Cau Giay District, said smartphones with tracking apps surreptitiously installed are not uncommon these days.

Some individuals and even software firms have invited him to sell their spy apps and promised attractive commissions, Tuan said.

“But I rejected the offers immediately to avoid troubles with the law,” he said.

Anh, the Bkav expert, advised that smartphone users try not to let other people use their handsets.

“They should only download apps from reliable app markets or stores and say no to software with dubious origins,” he added.

Le Hong Son, head of PC50m, a police unit that combats hi-tech crime, admitted that phone tapping apps are rampant but it is not easy to crack down on them.

A legal framework is needed in terms of this matter, he said.

“While opening the letters of other people is considered a law violation, there are no regulations on the trading of apps that can breach others’ privacy,” he pointed out.

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