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Exploitable security plagues digitalisation



Disruptive technologies spur the evolution in the financial landscape, with comprehensive applications providing convenient access to customers’ banking needs.

However, unbeknownst to many, hackers can easily find a way around the most common two-factor authentification methods.

Exploitable security plagues digitalisation
Vietcombank’s (VCB) Digibank phone app.

Tran Viet Luan from Ho Chi Minh City had his account activated via Vietcombank’s (VCB) Digibank phone app, and within seven minutes, VND406 million ($17,650) was transferred to a beneficiary at MSB and SeABank.

Vietcombank’s VCB Digibank, launched in July, integrates the bank’s online trading platforms with its existing services. The state-owned lender believes the app will offer an excellent experience to customers.

Following this lead, most banks are upping the ante in consumer experience, with some trying to blend experiences from the physical and digital worlds.

For instance, VietinBank offers VietinBank iPay Mobile. Meanwhile, HSBC positioned its signature “Banking on the way” app that lets users conduct transactions wherever they are. Standard Chartered is also bringing cutting-edge solutions to customers such as biometrics logins, facial recognition, and fingerprint authentication.

However, security is a major concern for users since the potential for losses is huge. For example, after conducting his money transfer through VCB’s Digibank phone app, since Luan from Ho Chi Minh City did not receive an SMS with a verification code or any notification of the transaction, he was unaware of the money lost until he went to the bank for another transaction.

In another case, earlier this year, 24-year-old Phan The Anh from the north-central province of Thanh Hoa was arrested and sentenced to 30 months for illegally usurping others’ property. He and other fraudsters tricked victims to get a one-time-password (OTP) code, then transferred VND100 million ($4,350) from the victim’s account to their own.

Tricky technology

“During the last year, there have been many cases where hackers exploited the weaknesses of SMS OTP authentication,” said Nguyen Tu Quang, CEO of Bkav, a Vietnamese technology corporation specialised in cybersecurity, software, and smart electronic devices.

OTPs sent via SMS remain a common authentication method, despite siginficant security flaws that have been known for years. Most online transactions nowadays require some kind of two-step authentication, which usually include an OTP sent via SMS.

However, many apps now require access to one’s SMS, which compromises security. A malicious app that targets OTPs only needs two permissions: one to access the internet and another to intercept SMS. With these two very commonly required permissions, the security scans of app stores often miss potential threats.

“OTP theft is quite popular, and this risk typically occurs in two major ways. First and foremost, users’ cellphones could be infected by a malware. which can be used to tap into your messages containing the OTP,” economist Nguyen Tri Hieu told VIR. “Secondly, users could get duped into revealing their OTP by fraudsters. For instance, there are many messages, or online links that might trick users to share personal banking details. In some cases, fraudsters could pose as bank tellers, talking about renewing or upgrading existing credit or debit cards of the victims to get the OTP.”

He added that the biggest weakness of the SMS OTP method is the lack of anti-denial, meaning that the system cannot verify who is carrying out the transaction. For example, if a hacker lures a user to a fake money transfer page, all information the user enters will be passed on to the hacker. They will then have a login information and an OTP code to perform the transaction on another device. The system is incapable of determining who made the transaction.

Risks abound

Regarding the incident of Tran Viet Luan, the representative of Vietcombank said Luan’s account was activated with the VCB Digibank application on another device. Vietcombank reported that the carrier has sent a total of eight messages, including four confirmation messages and four balance changes to the Luan’s phone, which he did not receive. The incident is still being investigated.

Vo Do Thang, director of privately-run Athena Cyber Security Center, said that OTP attacks are quite frequent, not only in Vietnam but all over the world.

“However, the decisive factor of safety lies within the user, not the method,” Thang said, adding that the main reasons of account theft are personal mistakes and a lack of experience in self-protection. “Many people freely log in to public Wi-Fi or download spyware without knowing it. Hackers can fully exploit this habit to access the user’s OTP code. Two-layer security by OTP will become less secure if we use it on an insecure device,” said Thang.

When installing new software, it is advised to refrain from allowing too many permissions to applications, such as reading SMS or accessing the internet if not needed. In addition, smartphone users should also use anti-malware software.

Though digital signatures are popular around the world and used in many fields in Vietnam such as customs, insurance, and taxation, Cuong said this method has not been developed by banks due to legal barriers regarding the use of mobile phones. At the same time, OTP is far more superior to digital signatures in terms of convenience when making transactions between different devices.

Le Anh Dung, deputy director of the State Bank of Vietnam’s Payment Department, said he expects the Ministry of Information and Communications and the Ministry of Public Security will speed up their progress to complete a comprehensive decree on protecting personal data and electronic identification. VIR

Luu Huong



ASEAN customs transit system launched



The online ASEAN Customs Transit System (ACTS) was officially launched on November 30 to accelerate trade in goods by road within Southeast Asia.

ASEAN customs transit system launched hinh anh 1

The Asean Customs Transit System was officially launched at a virtual event on Nov 30, 2020. (Photo: ACTS)

In 2017, ASEAN economic ministers set the twin goals of reducing trade transaction costs by 10 percent by 2020 and doubling intra-bloctrade between 2017 and 2025. ACTS has been developed to realise this goal to allow businesses to lodge e-transit declarations directly to ASEAN customs authorities and track the movement of their goods from loading to delivery.

Being developed with the support of the European Union, ACTS is simplifying the movement of goods across the region, making it more efficient and cost-effective.

Following trials in Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, the system has now been formally launched.

The first successful ACTS transit movement occurred on October 23-24 when a truck travelled from Singapore via Malaysia to Thailand.

The system will soon be available in Myanmar, and, depending on business needs, may later be expanded to Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Now transporters can make a single customs transit declaration that covers the transport of goods across multiple countries, without the need to make repeated customs declarations or change vehicles at each border.

Special arrangements allow reliable traders to load their goods at their own premises in the country of departure, and to deliver the goods to their own premises at other places.

Faster customs clearance at borders helps accelerate transit and reduce the time and expenses needed for carrying out regional trade in goods.

Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General of ASEAN, said: “The implementation of the ASEAN Customs Transit System plays a vital role in facilitating seamless movement of goods in the region. I believe the system will be an excellent tool in enhancing ASEAN’s trade and production networks as well as establishing a more unified market for its firms and consumers.

“ACTS could also support post-COVID recovery to accelerate the transit movement of medical supplies, vaccines and personal protective equipment within the member states.”

The system is managed by a permanent ACTS central management team based in the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia, with support from the EU-funded ARISE Plus programme.

“ACTS is a remarkable achievement that is testament to the strong, dynamic and long-standing partnership between ASEAN and the European Union,” Koen Doens, director general for international cooperation and development at the European Commission, said.

“The EU is proud to have joined ASEAN to make ACTS a reality, providing European technical expertise and 10 million euros since 2012.”
ARISE Plus has provided extensive ACTS training for stakeholders in the public and private sectors, including customs authorities, government transport agencies, freight forwarders, transporters, banks, and insurance companies./.VNA


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Freight and logistics stocks on the rise despite pandemic




Quy Nhơn Port in south central province of Bình Định. — VNA Photo

HÀ NỘI — Freight and logistics stocks have seen major gains since the beginning of 2020 even as the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the economy. 

According to the General Statistics Office, the country’s exports topped US$254 billion during the first 11 months of the year, making for an increase of 5.3 per cent over the previous year, while imports were estimated at $234.5 billion. 

Increased trade activities coupled with a number of international trade deals which were recently signed or came into effects such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) have significantly boosted investors’ confidence in logistics stocks.

A number of stocks such as VSC, GMD, DVP, DXP, SFI and HAH have seen double-digit growth in recent months and some of them set all-time high records on the trading floor. 

Experts, however, pointed out the recent rise in stock value did not necessarily come from better business performance but rather investors’ optimism in the sector’s future. For example, despite the increased trading value, Gemadept has reported a 32 per cent drop in profit in the first three quarters, Tân Cảng Logistic (TCL) a 15 per cent drop and Hải An Logistics a 9 per cent drop. 

A container shortage, typically experienced by logistics firms during the end of the year when import/export activities are at the highest level, especially for an export-oriented economy such as Việt Nam, contributed to an increase in logistics costs.

A report from the Vietnam Logistics Business Association (VLA) showed more than 40 per cent of firms had difficulty finding containers for their cargo with up to 17 per cent unable to rent them. This has created a large backlog of cargo at port and storage facilities across the country, which generated additional revenue for logistics firms. 

Meanwhile, freight charges have skyrocketed in recent months. According to Freightos, a Hong Kong-based shipping company, the freight charges for a 40-feet container from China to the US west coast has almost tripled to near $4,000. 

Investors also seem to be betting on an increase in port charges as Việt Nam’s current prices were comparatively low in the region. A statement from the VLA said the sector has set an objective to bring charges to 60-70 per cent of the region’s price level by 2025, which they have planned to start bringing up at the beginning of next year. —


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Nearly a third of local sugar plants shut down



A farmer harvests sugarcane. Nearly a third of domestic sugar plants have shut down – PHOTO: THANH HOA

HANOI – Only 29 of 40 local sugar plants remained operational in the 2019-2020 season due to a high volume of sugar imports and the deployment of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) with lower tax rates for sugar imports from ASEAN markets, according to the Vietnam Sugarcane and Sugar Association (VSSA).

The 2020-2021 season is forecast to be a hard time for the sugar sector, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic remains a big challenge. Four more sugar mills—Son Duong, Nong Cong, Van Phat and Pho Phong—are likely to stop their operations due to a shortage of input materials, resulting in their poor performance.

The local sugar sector has been hit for many years due to the smuggling of sugar, mainly from Thailand.

Meanwhile, other ASEAN countries, such as Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, despite commitments to the ATIGA, have still employed measures to protect their sugar firms.

Vietnam has fulfilled its commitments to the agreement since January 1 by setting no limits on the volume of sugar imports from ASEAN countries and applying a tax rate of 5% for sugar imports from these markets.

According to statistics from the General Department of Vietnam Customs, nearly 884,300 tons of sugar was imported into the country in the January-October period of this year, higher than the locally-produced volume of sugar. Of the total, sugar from Thailand accounted for 87.67%.

Due to a high volume of low-cost sugar imports, the prices of local sugar products have plunged, leading to low sugarcane prices. As a result, many farmers have incurred debts and stopped growing sugarcane.

In reality, the Ministry of Industry and Trade launched an anti-dumping and anti-subsidy investigation into sugar products that originate from Thailand in September. The ministry had earlier imposed anti-dumping measures on high-fructose corn syrup products originating from China and South Korea.

According to VSSA, Thailand has banned sugar imports, while Indonesia and the Philippines have allowed the import of a volume of sugar equivalent to the deficiency in volume.

In these three countries, sugarcane farmers are supported through direct and indirect aid and the profit sharing system to ensure they earn a stable income.

Specifically, the Thai Government annually provides at least US$1.3 billion to the sugar sector.

Therefore, Nguyen Van Loc, acting general secretary of VSSA, proposed Vietnam should apply trade remedies in line with the international law and rules of the World Trade Organization.


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