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Celebrities Join Fight Against Facebook Hacking in Vietnam

The ‘Chong Hack Facebook’ (Fight Facebook Hacking) campaign reaches over 1.2 million social media users and boosts the use of two-step authentication to protect accounts.

Amid rising levels of Facebook hacking in Vietnam, the SecDev Foundation launched a celebrity-driven social media campaign to promote the use of two-step authentication. The campaign saw thousands of Vietnamese users set up login approvals on Facebook, and had the unexpected result of finding a celebrity ‘cyber ambassador’ who will continue to promote online safety in Vietnam.

Background

Account theft continues to be a significant problem for Vietnam’s 30 million Facebook users, most of whom are under 25 years. The results of a recent online quiz found that a majority of social media users had been hacked directly, or had friends who had been hacked. Very few had no experience with being hacked or losing email or social media accounts.

The quiz confirms the findings of an earlier FlashNote on Facebook account theft. That report found a high number of mentions of ‘hacking’ on Facebook’s Vietnamese-language corporate Page, supported by numerous anecdotal accounts.

#ChongHackFB Campaign

The SecDev Foundation’s ‘Chong Hack Facebook’ relied on top celebrities and the popularity of “selfie” photos to grab the attention of Vietnamese youth – young women in particular. The campaign aimed to get youth to set up Facebook’s login approvals protection on their accounts. Not only did it attract a large following, it appears to have made an impact on behaviour. Data provided by an SMS service company indicated a notable uptake in two-step authentication over the first few days of the campaign.

The campaign design was familiar to many social media users. Participants were encouraged to follow simple guidelines to turn on login approvals (two-factor authentication), and then take a selfie while making a two-finger ‘peace sign.’ Participants would then post this along with the campaign hashtag on their Facebook wall, encouraging others to follow the same steps. To launch the campaign, many ‘two-finger’ selfies were taken by leading celebrities, some of whom had had their accounts hacked in the past.

Facebook’s instructional video on login approvals was re-dubbed into Vietnamese by one of the campaign’s lead celebrities, Trang Phap, and circulated as part of the campaign.

The campaign concept was similar to other social campaigns – a hashtag, a particular type of photo, and a short message to explain how to take part. Fans followed the celebrity lead, posting their own photos in the comments or on their own profiles.

The campaign concept was similar to other social campaigns – a hashtag, a particular type of photo, and a short message to explain how to take part. Fans followed the celebrity lead, posting their own photos in the comments or on their own profiles.

Trang Phap, with fellow singer Bang Di, also helped launch the campaign by appearing in a short humorous video alongside music producer Duong Khac Linh. The pair of singers had just been featured as a team on Vietnam’s version of ‘The Amazing Race,’ while Duong Khac Linh was in the news at the time given his role as a judge on ‘The Voice,’ Vietnam’s most popular TV show.

The video was released on Facebook and YouTube on 3 September, and was followed over the next fews days by selfie photos from star singers including Bao Thy, Hoang Thuy Linh, Huu Cong, Emily and Le Quyen (the singer who’s hacking experience had been recounted by Thanh Nien newspaper only a few weeks before the campaign started). In all, over 30 celebrities participated (most being paid a small honorarium).

During the first week of the campaign, some young Facebook users followed the celebrity lead and posted photos with the hashtag #ChongHackFB. Many of these photos indicated an understanding of the campaign’s purpose. The photos were either posted in comments under the celebrity pictures, or posting directly to users’ profiles. The campaign page collected as many of these publically posted pictures as it could track.

The true reach of this part of the campaign is unknown, however, as many users have Facebook profile posts visible only to friends (which is our recommended security practice). However, the extent of engagement on the celebrity posts indicates the campaign reached a wide audience.

#ChongHackFB – Top Celebrity Posts

No. Name Likes Comments Shares
1 Bảo Thy 91,300 565 211
2 365DaBand 18,000 97 35
3 Emily 15,000 45 11
4 Ngô Thanh Vân 12,000 79 27
5 Hoàng Thuỳ Linh 11,400 52 29
6 Hữu Công 5,800 147 11
7 Ưng Hoàng Phúc 4,200 38 17
8 Mr. Tee 3,800 26 3
9 Kenny Sang 3,800 176 1
10 Linh Miu 1,900 68 1

In addition, as the photos spread, mainstream media became interested in the story. Cable broadcaster VTC interviewed one of the campaign organizers and several of the participating celebrities. Several online news outlets also ran stories, including Zing News, Afamily, VietnamNet and Thanh Nien Online.

The campaign Facebook Page alone achieved a total reach of over 1.2 million, a strong indication that it raised overall youth awareness of two-factor authentication and basic online safety.

To more directly measure the impact on user practice, the campaign reached out to one of the private sector IT service companies that sends SMS messages on behalf of Facebook. Data provided by this company shows that the first three days of the campaign saw a daily average of 10,055 phone numbers requesting SMS codes – a much higher figure than the week preceding the campaign. One month after the campaign start, the number of codes being sent remained at a fairly high level. While the data can only be indicative (due to the small and partial sample), it strongly suggests that the campaign achieved a positive impact on behaviour.

 

Celebrity Targeted by Social Engineering Scam Becomes Cyber Safety Ambassador

An unexpected outcome of the campaign was top singer Bao Thy’s decision — after she was hit with a successful phishing attack — to become a ‘cyber ambassador’ for Vietnam youth (see Box 1 below). After posting her selfie photo, Bao Thy was the target of a successful phishing attack, resulting in the loss of her social media and email accounts to a hacker. Following restoration of her accounts, Bao Thy emerged from this experience wanting to help others stay safe online. She is now serving as a celebrity Cyber Safety Ambassador for Vietnamese youth, and will be part of a planned ‘Safer Internet Day’ for Vietnam in early 2016.

Hacked Celebrity Becomes Cyber Safety Ambassador for Vietnamese Youth

After participating in the two-step campaign launch, celebrity singer Bao Thy was hit with a successful phishing attack, resulting in the loss of her social media and email accounts to a hacker.

20150908-sao-viet-selfie-sieu-nhang-keu-goi-chong-hack-facebook-4Within a few days of posting her campaign photo, Bao Thy was contacted via her Facebook profile by someone claiming to be “the nephew of Facebook’s Vietnam representative.” This person offered to provide a service to protect Bao Thy’s account. As Bao Thy personally knows the real Facebook representative, she unwisely assumed the person contacting her was a legitimate consultant. Unfortunately, she agreed to download and install a desktop sharing application that allowed this person to take control of her laptop. The first thing the hacker did was open her Facebook and turn off login approvals, after which they proceeded to steal her Facebook, Yahoo! and iCloud accounts.

Embarrassed by her own naivete, Bao Thy contacted the campaign team for help. The real Facebook representative provided assistance in recovering her profile (but not her Yahoo! email or iCloud accounts, which were permanently lost).

Celebrities like Bao Thy face the conundrum of being in contact via Facebook with large numbers of fans who are total strangers. Many chat with these fans quite extensively to build their fanbase, which leaves them open to social engineering tactics.

The popularity of celebrity profiles and fanpages – some with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers – contributes to making them targets, as hackers can then target their large audience. When Le Quyen was hacked, many of her fans were duped into sending the hacker money.

Bao Thy emerged from this experience wanting to help others, and she will soon begin serving as a celebrity Cyber Ambassador, seeking to raise youth awareness on the dangers of social engineering and other aspects of online safety. She will be part of a planned ‘Safer Internet Day’ for Vietnam in early 2016.

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