Malicious software is being used to spy on critics of a controversial bauxite mine in Vietnam, reports Google.
The software, which enables users to type in Vietnamese characters, carries spyware that allows outsiders to remotely access computers upon which it is installed.
“These infected machines have been used both to spy on their owners as well as participate in distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against blogs containing messages of political dissent,” Neel Mehta, a Google engineer who works in security, wrote in a post on the online giant’s security blog.
Bauxite tailing pond.
“Specifically, these attacks have tried to squelch opposition to bauxite mining efforts in Vietnam, an important and emotionally charged issue in the country.”
The malware infected “potentially tens of thousands of users,” acccording to Mehta.
The bauxite mine is a joint venture between Chalco, a subsidiary of China’s state-run aluminum company Chinalco, and the Vietnamese government. Critics of the project say the surface will cause environmental damage, including fouling water supplies and consuming agricultural land in a region that produces coffee and other crops.
News of the attack comes less than three months after Google disclosed cyber attacks against its Gmail email service. The company said the attacks originated in China and appeared to target Chinese human rights activists and journalists.