MANILA May 25 Hackers linked with the
Vietnamese government are likely targeting Philippine government
agencies to gather intelligence related to the maritime dispute
in the South China Sea, cybersecurity company FireEye
said on Thursday.
That same group, which FireEye called APT32, was also
responsible for attacking a Philippine consumer products
corporation and a Philippine technology infrastructure firm in
2016, the company said in a media briefing.
Bryce Boland, chief technology officer for Asia Pacific,
said the company had observed that APT32 was targeting not just
multinational companies and organisations doing business in
Vietnam but Philippine government agencies as well.
"This is presumably in order to gain access to information
about military preparation and understanding how the
organisations within the government operate in order to be
better prepared in case of potentially military conflict,"
"There are overlapping claims between Vietnam and the
Philippines over some islands in the South China Sea and it is
quite likely that intelligence gathering is starting around
that," Boland said.
Vietnam has strongly rejected allegations it supports
"The government of Vietnam does not allow any form of cyber
attacks against organisations or individuals," Foreign Ministry
spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said earlier this month in response
to similar accusations.
"All cyber attacks or threats to cyber security must be
condemned and severely punished in accordance with regulations
A spokesman for the Philippine Foreign Affairs Department
did not immediately respond to a telephone call or text message
The Philippines, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei
contest all or parts of the South China Sea, through which about
$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
APT stands for advanced persistent threat, a term usually
reserved for state-sponsored hacker groups.
"We believe all of the activities of APT32 are aligned to
the interests of the Vietnamese government," Boland said.
(Reporting by Karen Lema; Additional reporting by Mai Nguyen in
HANOI; Editing by Nick Macfie)