Baidu missteps in Vietnam, gets flak for social site and malicious files
August 3, 2012 by Terence LEE
Politics can sometimes get in the way of business. Google found out the hard way when it attempted to crack the Chinese market. Now, Chinese search giant Baidu is learning the same lesson by entering Vietnam.
Complicating matters is the fact that Vietnam and China have been locking horns in a territorial dispute over the Spratly Islands, which are rich in oil and natural gas reserves. Malaysia, Taiwan, Philippines and Brunei are also claiming sovereignty over these islands.
In July, hundreds have rallied in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city to protest against China. The backlash has apparently spread online, with Baidu as a focal point.
The search company had announced in the same month the launch of Tieba Vietnam, a social search site where users can search using keywords, with the added twist that these keywords will form “bars”, which are essentially discussion forums hosted on the site.
The Vietnamese reacted to the announcement by creating Facebook Pages calling for boycott of the service, one of which has attracted over 1,400 likes.
The authorities stepped in as well, with the Department of Broadcast, Television, and E-Information quoted as saying that it would take action against Baidu for starting a site in Vietnam without registering for a license. That situation appears to have been resolved as the site domain name was transferred to .com. The site is now live.
Making matters worse, Baidu’s music player TTPlayer and video streaming site Ahphim.com have also come under scrutiny in Vietnam over allegedly carrying malicious files.
According to Tuoitrenews.vn, the Hacker Vietnam Association (HVA) and CMC InfoSec security research team has classified TTPlayer as adware since it installs itself onto users’ computers without their explicit permission.
The team has also found that Ahphim.com, a video streaming site for the Vietnamese market, requires users to download a web app called HiPlayer in order to watch videos. The app, however, contains a trojan horse called hao123, which opens computers to external control.
“The infected computers are easily subject to remote control, information stealing, or becoming zombie computers in hackers’ distributed denial-of-service attacks, or DDoS,” the team told Tuoitrenews.vn. Vietnamese users have complained about Baidu’s incursions into their computers, which in some instances have rendered computers unusable.
A security expert quoted by Tuoitrenews.vn has even advised the Vietnamese to stop using Baidu’s services.
The disdain over Chinese goods is not just restricted to Baidu’s products. Vietnamese and Filipino Americans have reportedly been calling for a boycott of Chinese goods in protest over the country’s perceived aggression.
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About The Author
Terence LEE - Editor
Terence writes mainly about technology trends and startups in Asia. He believes in crafting smart content: Not just a regurgitation of text, but well thought-out pieces that serve the reader using a combination of data, design, narratives, analysis, and visual impact. His articles have been published on Venturebeat, Yahoo!, Straits Times, Today, and The Online Citizen. He also co-founded NewNation.sg, a satirical news site covering Singapore affairs. Engage him on LinkedIn and Twitter.Read other posts by Terence LEE