Hacker once jailed by US now hired by Vietnam's National Cybersecurity Center

He would do technical research and find solutions to help keep people and businesses’ information safe on the Internet, the center said.

Ngo Minh Hieu (R), one of the most notorious hackers in the U.S.’s history of information security, posing with a man. Photo: Krebs on Security

Ngo Minh Hieu, a convicted hacker who once stole the personal information of 200 million Americans, has recently been recruited by Vietnam’s National Cybersecurity Center (NCSC).

Hieu, 31, who was imprisoned in the US for about seven years until 2019, on December 3 posted an image on his Facebook account showing his application to the NCSC.

He is the only NCSC employee in Ho Chi Minh City, he said.

The center, which operates under the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), said it is "in the process of taking in Ngo Minh Hieu as a technical expert."

Hieu will be participating in research aimed at better ensuring information security for local residents and businesses, the representative elaborated, adding that his tasks will be assigned and supervised by the NCSC for the common goal of protecting the people in cyberspace.

He will be able to use his talent in suitable activities, helping protect the security and safety of national cyberspace. Meanwhile, the NCSC will have a competent technical expert to better protect the country, people, and businesses in an increasingly complex and risky network environment, the center said.

Between 2007 and 2013 he stole personal data, including names, birth dates, social security numbers, and bank account information from online marketplaces, according to the US Department of Justice. He sold the information for nearly USD 2 million, it said.

Hieu was arrested by the Secret Service when he entered US territory in 2013. In 2015, he was sentenced to 13 years in jail for hacking into US businesses’ computers, stealing personally identifiable information and selling information belonging to some 200 million US citizens, the Department of Justice said.

He was released early in 2019. On his release, Hieu said he regretted what he did and hoped one day to get a cybersecurity job. He returned to Vietnam in August.

He has put up on his LinkedIn profile that he is a convicted former hacker and cybercriminal, but has said he would like to mentor young people and guide them on the right path and away from cybercrime, security news website KrebsOnSecurity reported.

"I hope my work can help change the minds of somebody, and if at least one person can change and turn to do good, I’ll be happy," Hieu said.

Mai Nguyen