A bugging device made in Chinese sold at a shop in Ho Chi Minh City
Bugging devices smuggled in from China are widely sold in Ho Chi Minh City though lawyers say their use is illegal.
A shopkeeper named Duong in an alley in District 3 offered a Thanh Nien reporter two bugging devices smaller than a matchbox for VND900,000 (US$43) EACH?.
“They can hear clearly within a 15-30 meters radius,” he said, offering a 12-month guarantee.
One needs to buy a prepaid SIM card, an unregistered one which is also widely available illegally so that it cannot be traced, insert it into the device, and call to activate it, he said.
A call to that SIM card then will pick up sounds from around the device.
Another bug costing VND1.6 million automatically sends signals to one’s phone number when there is any noise in the vicinity.
But their prices vary largely around the city.
Another shopkeeper on nearby Ly Chinh Thang Street said he gets more than 10 customers daily who need to find out if their debtors are concealing money, keep an eye on their partners, children, and employees, or keep thieves away.
Quang, who has sold another kind of bug for long, said it can be disguised as a computer mouse, a USB, a power plug, socket, or charger. It does not need charging unlike the ones using SIM cards.
Some devices also come with a camera.
Quang said the devices may be advertised as made in Hong Kong or Taiwan but they all come from mainland China at prices of VND200,000-500,000.
They are called “global bugs” or "personal GPS" as they can let one eavesdrop on any place in the world as long as there is electricity or a telecom signal, he said.
Another bugging technique is to create a copy of a SIM card, and any calls to and from one can also be heard through the other.
A company, only identified as N.N., rents an office building in Vo Van Tan Street to provide bugging services.
Tai, a representative, said a full package of calls, messages, history of web browsing and online chats, images from a ’s mobile phone, and the location of the target costs VND10 million a year and VND3-4 million the second year.
He said it only takes 15 minutes to install a software on the target’s mobile phone.
An Internet connection is needed to activate the software, and once that is done all information from the phone is sent to the customer’s email.
A contract is signed to offer a guarantee, he said.
Several companies like Tai’s operate in the city, labeling themselves as detective agencies.
Tran Ngoc Quy of the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association said Vietnamese laws protect the privacy of mails, calls, and other personal information.
The act of stealing personal information without someone's consent or for illegal purposes is punishable by fines of VND10-20 million .
Repeat violations constitute a crime and could fetch up to two years in jail.
Vendors of such products can be jailed up to 15 years for trading banned products.
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