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Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Life in Vietnam part 4: Am I a spy?


Every time I think I am ready to retell the exodus story, I am reminded of other things that add context to exactly why I was afraid for my life at the end of my time in Vietnam. Here is another of those reasons.

I had many jobs at the same time while living in Vietnam. At American Academy/CleverLearn I taught kids and teens on the weekends and adults during my first 6 months. At EIV I used to design powerpoint lessons for other teachers to use until my first laptop became inoperable. I also taught adult English classes at EIV centers in District 3 and Binh Thanh District. By the way, if any of my students from District 3 read this, do you remember how I would joke that my phone was tapped?  Whenever I got a text or a call during class in District 3, the speaker system would start buzzing about 5 or 8 seconds before my phone did. I have watched enough CSI to know that this was a sign of a wire tap. True or not, it only happened with my phone and not the phones of my students.

Anyway, I am calling this part Am I a spy?  During the second half of my time in Vietnam, EIV arranged for me to do a lot of onsite education. I had a class in the Accounting department of Sacoumb Bank. I taught in an international trading company. I had a class in the headquarters of Vietnam's largest internet content provider. And I also had one on one classes with some very successful and influential people in Saigon. I don't want to use names at this point, but this part of my life there gave me access to some important people.

Not only were they important, but they were good people. Mr. M. had a similar outlook as mine. The son of a business owner who is poised to take over the company business in 2013. Mrs. N., who I think of as more than a student, but also a friend. She was so kind and generous to me. Her mother often made me lunch (we met 5 times a week for 2 hours each time). This list goes on. But one thing that each student had in common was that we got along well, I was open and honest with them, and I used my laptop as part of the English process.

Yes, the laptop that was ultimately hacked to high hell. In hindsight, I realize that I had no expectation of privacy regarding my laptop. But maybe I was too careless in bringing it into the homes and businesses of my students. I always connected to the internet wherever I was. And with a corrupt laptop, anyone who could remotely access it could also remotely access the networks of my students. Students with business secrets, plans, finances, etc. I really hope that none of them were compromised by my laptop. 

This is pure speculation on my part, but what better way to access restricted data than to corrupt the laptop of an English teacher who can freely come and go without inspection?  Did I mention that I found several encrypted RAID drives on the harddrive of my laptop? Did I mention that the firewall platform of my laptop was rewritten to include inherent inbound and outbound exceptions for programs that I never used? Simple programs like msn messenger, windows mail, notepad, and I.E. 4.0. Internet Explorer is up to version 9, which I had installed on my laptop. But there was another version of IE that was located in the AllUsers folder system. And the help section of this other IE gave me all the information I needed to find the various hacks. This UserAgent IE was nothing short of everything a spy needed to operate without notice on my laptop. 

Also, using a plug and play monitor system, I could be working on my computer but someone else could also be working on it without having anything appear on my monitor. I installed a network sniffing program to track data in and out of my laptop and found gigabites of information moving back and forth using UDP.

So was I a spy in Vietnam? I really don't know. But if the answer is yes, I know how it was done.
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