A group of Chinese hacktivists named China 1937CN Team have delayed operations at 21 Vietnamese airports and defaced the website of state-owned Vietnam Airlines.

The cyber-attacks started Friday afternoon, on July 29, and were initially detected at the Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi and Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.

Hackers have breached the airport’s sound and video systems to broadcast and display offensive messages towards Vietnam and the Philippines, along with politically incorrect information about the East Vietnam Sea, claiming to be a territory under China’s rule.

The broadcasted audio message was in English, and a copy is available via the Vietnamese media.

Computer systems exhibited glitches in 21 airports

Later in the day, officials also reported that computer systems started exhibiting glitches and by late afternoon around 21 airports across Vietnam had switched to using manual check-in procedures.

While all of this was going on, the website of Vietnam Airlines was also defaced. A copy of the defacement message is available as an image below, or via this mirror.

A Vietnam Airlines spokesperson told media that the website contained information on about 411,000 passengers, and the hackers had managed to get their hands on the data.

By 18:30 all services had been restored and everything went back to normal. The same hacktivism group is also behind DDoS attacks on 1,000 Vietnamese websites and 200 Philippines sites at the end of May.

Chinese hacktivism came to life after a court ruling at The Hague

Previously, Chinese hacktivists have been relatively quiet. They become very active all of a sudden after the July 12 court ruling against China at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, who ruled in favor of the Philippines in a dispute over the South China Sea.

The two countries have been fighting over maritime territorial rights for years, with China making absurd claims over large areas of international waters, a region that is known to be rich in energy, mineral and fishing resources.

Right after the court ruling, Chinese hacktivists have defaced two Philippines government websites, and later carried out massive DDoS attacks against several government institutions.

The attack on the Vietnamese airports, even if claimed by hacktivists, doesn’t look like the work of a group of script kiddies. To penetrate national and critical infrastructure like the one found at 21 airports, one would need a coordinated effort, doubled by powerful malware.

Never has Anonymous or LulzSec even come close to hacking the internal sound and video systems inside an airport, let alone 21 at the same time, while defacing websites, stealing databases, and launching DDoS attacks, all in just a few hours.

Defacement message on the website of Vietnam Airlines

Defacement message on the website of Vietnam Airlines

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