Whenever it comes to the internet security, the first thing comes in mind is cyber laws, the laws imposed and facilitated by the government of a particular nation, in this case Vietnam. This cyber laws plays an important role in preventing information leaks, security in information exchanging and providing safe transactions. As government plays an important role here so it also can surpass the some internet rights in the name of the cyber laws. Many of the social sites are blocked in Vietnam and also the government is keeping a trace over the emails. The government also put some bloggers behind the bars on expressing their views on political and religious agendas.
Also, according to a recent report of Kaspersky, a software firm, Vietnam is at high risk of cyber attacks
Now the question arises, what if you are in Vietnam and working on a very important and sensitive project, in which the accessibility of blocked site is essential and at the same time you have to deal with the security concerns?
Well the answers to all your concerns is VPN (Virtual Private Network)
What is VPN?
Internet let us to connect and share the information by connecting to the world of networking. In networking, every system i.e. phone or a computer which is connected through internet have an assigned IP address (Internet protocol address). And this IP address is the identity of your device just like your identity card. This addresses are specific to a device, there is no ambiguity.
Now whenever you want to connect with the World Wide Web you cannot have a connection directly. You have to buy an internet connection from the Internet providers / Infrastructure providers which can be a private firm or can be a government association. Now it means that the internet providers can directly keep an eye on your browsing activities. That simply means that your information is at risk. However, the cyber laws deny such approvals but what if the lawmakers are keeping a trace. Now VPN is the software which will assign you a different virtual IP address, obviously fake, which will protect your identity and hence the name is Virtual Private Network. It works by making a layer of protection by encrypting your data and assigning you an IP address of different geographical region
Why I need a VPN in Vietnam?
As already discussed above, Vietnam is a country, in which there are very strict cyber laws. Vietnam has been considered as the worst jailers of blogger. Under Article 258 of the penal code many bloggers were arrested or prosecuted in Vietnam for violating the cyber laws. Also many cases of hacking and spreading of malware software has increased tremendously in past few months.
The blockage of social sites is also a very big concern. Many online services are blocked or restricted and also this raises the question of information privacy.
So VPN does following things for us:
- Secure Browsing – The concept of secure browsing means to protect the user from cyber-attacks or malware sites. Secure browsing has a direct link with the trusted sites. The trusted sites are specially designed to protect the users from various kinds of attacks and spam. The concept also used encrypted module. It will protect the information from third party interface even if the floating data is leaked or copied.
- Avoid censorship – VPN allows you to bypass surfing of blocked sites as it provide an extra protective layer between Infrastructure Provider and the user. You will be able to secure the information with the help encryption module provided by the software, which will protect you from the leaks to the third party interference. Also it would be difficult to keep a track on your browsing activities and online content sharing. The censorship prevents one to express their views freely on social networking sites. Many blogs have been removed in recent past and VPN can help you to overcome this problem.
- Unblock geographically restricted content – Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are often blocked in Vietnam, so to bypass this block what you need is a different geographical location. It can be easily tackled by selecting the IP address of any other country using the VPN, which will unblock the geographically restricted sites. For e.g. your favorite site is YouTube and you want to see some videos or movies on YouTube but what if that particular region is been restricted from the content sharing? In this case the geographical location can be changed virtually by using the VPN and you can have an easy access to the sites or blocked contents.
Is it secure to connect to internet in Vietnam?
According to a report of the Russian based software developer company Kaspersky, Vietnam is at a high risk of cyber attacks. The main cyber attacks carried out are of Social Engineering toolkit types. These includes phishing attack, spear phishing attacks, Dos attacks and cookie sniffing.
As the name suggests these attacks are mainly on social networking sites, and are carried out to steal the private information of the user. The information like debit card and credit card details, bank transactions or online banking should be highly secured in this regard.
Also the majority of firms don’t use the high level protection and they only rely on the firewall protection, proxy servers and anti-virus software to protect from the malware. But this security practices fails whenever it comes to the social engineering attacks. Especially when it comes to phishing and spear phishing attacks because these scam are mainly the game of mind.
It is upon how much knowledge and intelligence a person have. Phishing is website defacement attack on a website’s visual appearance, whereas spear phishing is more advanced in which the viruses are spread via emails and messages in order to steal the information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details from victims.
Most vulnerable to these attacks are common people who have a little knowledge about technical vulnerabilities and are easy targets. Hackers also have their own malware and viruses which they always test for penetration on up-to-dates antiviruses. Now this further deteriorates the condition and tells about the vulnerability about the internet usage in Vietnam
The truth is cyber wars are fought overseas and protection is the prime need of the time.
Internet Censorship in Vietnam
Internet freedom status of a country tells about the freedom of its citizens to have access over the internet. This can be directly linked to the cyber laws of a country. In Vietnam the cyber laws are very strict and hence its Internet freedom status is not free. While status of some other countries are free and partially free such as it is partially free in countries like India and Sri Lanka.
The censorship is basically meant to impose restrictions on the social networking sites and the content shared on the sites but when it comes to Vietnam, the scenario changes to a more strict propaganda. Internet censorship In Vietnam also prevents the access to the sites related to the International human rights organization and is curbing the Information sharing and exchanging rights of its citizens.
However, the government of Vietnam calls this as a safeguard to their country against sexually explicit content via blocking it, but behind the walls it is playing a tactic in suppressing the activists and bloggers who raised their voice on the wrong political agendas.
The censored content can be widely categorized in different sections such as censoring of subversive content, blocking of social networking sites and a cross check over the blogging. Let us have a brief look on all these aspects.
- Subversive content: The content shared overseas, like websites sharing contents with political opposition overseas and Independent media which is far away from the direct impact of the country telecommunications rules, proxies and circumvention tools etc, are found blocked. The websites which shares the content about the International organization and human rights are also found blocked. The websites like British Broadcasting Corporation which has a significant journalistic presence is among the blocked website to suppress the freedom of media and many human rights.
- Social Networking Censorship: Nowadays, social networking sites are gaining a popularity and is an important medium of exchanging information and to keep a watch on the government’s issues. In that case it comes as an excellent tool but what if these sites blocked. According to a report, in November 2009, Facebook users from Vietnam reported that they not able to access Facebook. It was blocked by the government however the Vietnamese government denied blocking access to Facebook.
- Blogging: Vietnamese government led a crackdown of youth activists in 2011 for simply expressing their rights online. Blogger, Twitter and wordpress.com are been blocked from 29th February 2016.
Then there comes censorship in blocking many sites, some of the sites are permanently blocked and some are partially blocked, that is they are on a testing period. Here we discuss about few agendas and policy carried out by the Vietnamese government, while the main blocking was done by the DNS. DNS here refer to the Domain Name Server. In this case the particular IP address is blocked. Hence the denial or blocking is by DNS application. This is usually done by the Infrastructure providers and majority of the IPs are controlled by the government directly.
The Government of Vietnam with the help of Vietnam posts and telecommunications group and FPT telecom set up the category codes to check the content of the sites and imposed regulations accordingly. Some of the main category codes were:
- FEXP (Freedom of expression and Media freedom)
- POLT (Political Transformation)
- MILX (Militants, Extremists and Separatists)
- HUMR (Human Rights)
Then according to the above category codes, many websites are blocked permanently and some are partially.
Websites partially blocked
This category contains websites of social networking interests like Facebook and Twitter which are blocked partially and are put on the test run
Websites completely blocked
Here is a list of some websites according to the report posted by the OpenNet Initiative which are blocked permanently.
These are the some major websites out of the thousands blocked by the government and a common thing about these websites is that most of them are related to media or human rights organization