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​Self-proclaimed ‘Facebook alternatives’ raise security concerns in Vietnam

Thursday, June 14, 2018, 18:43 GMT+7
​Self-proclaimed ‘Facebook alternatives’ raise security concerns in Vietnam
A screen capture of Vietnamta.vn website. Photo: Tuoi Tre News

A leading cyber security forum in Vietnam has warned local Internet users of possible security risks when using their Facebook accounts to connect with some social networking sites that only became known to public after a new cyber security law was passed earlier this week.

Vietnam’s legislature passed on Tuesday the new law on internet security, which requires all foreign providers of Internet-related services to open representative offices and data centers in Vietnam, where information of Vietnam-based users must be stored, in order to continue offering their services to local users.

An article in the law grants the country’s Ministry of Public Security the power to demand access to any organization or company’s data system for investigation in cases where there is a perceived threat to national security and public safety.

Internet service providers, including Facebook and YouTube, will be required to remove ‘anti-state,’ ‘offensive’ or ‘inciting’ contents from their platforms within 24 hours of receiving a request from the Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security, according to the law.

With unsubstantiated information circulating online that this could send the Internet giants to cease services in Vietnam, some websites have emerged, taking advantage of people’s bewilderment of losing their Facebook accounts under the new law to attract new users.

These sites advertise themselves as alternatives for Facebook, but all show signs of scams, adamdj, a Whitehat.vn moderator said in a post on Wednesday.

Particularly, one of them, Vietnamta.vn, bears an almost identical interface for registration and login to Facebook.

The so-called Vietnamese social networking site also shamelessly copies Facebook motto, saying the service is "free and always will be."

It offers users an option to log in to the page using Facebook accounts without creating a new one.

“In addition, this page also has a mobile application for Android and iOS users,” adamdj reported in his post.

Screen captures of reviews about Vietnamta app for iOS. Photo: Tuoi Tre News
Screen captures of reviews about Vietnamta app for iOS. Photo: Tuoi Tre News

"Looking at reviews on Google Play Store and App Store, you can see many negative reviews including bad app design, slow loading, less functionality, multiple bugs and unlicensed operation with one-star rating for the app,” adamdj wrote.

“In short, it is not worth using,” he concluded.

One office worker in Ho Chi Minh City said he tried to sign up for an account on Vietnamta out of curiosity, but the registration was unsuccessful.

"I filled in the sign-up form and everything went well, until the site told me to check my email for the link to activate my account. But I didn't receive any email from them," he told Tuoi Tre News.

In fact, Vietnamta.vn has been around for a few months, but has been recently promoted again in the wake of unsubstantiated allegations that the newly-passed cyber security law may affect Facebook operations in Vietnam.

“Facebook account stores many important information of a user. People face a high risk of losing access to Facebook if they link their account with dubious platforms,” Whitehat.vn warned.

Vietnamta.vn has crashed multiple times on Thursday due to “high volume of visitors.”

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Bao Anh / Tuoi Tre News

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