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Illustration of three cute cats holding mobile devices next to the Chong Hack name.

Vietnamese youth take the digital safety reins

Faced with a new world of cyber threats, from hacking to phishing to blackmail, Vietnamese youth are increasingly leading the way in keeping themselves and their compatriots safer online. Since 2015, we have partnered with a local NGO to help build the “Chong Hack” brand of digital safety resources. Now, with that partner’s guidance, local youth who’ve helped bring life to the initiative are taking it over for good.

It’s true whether you’re a coach, development worker, or anyone who’s trying to help people improve their lives. Simply: there’s nothing more heartening than seeing people take tools that you’ve shared, and use them to drive results you may never have envisioned. In Vietnam, that’s been the story of a youth-oriented digital safety initiative that The SecDev Foundation helped bring to life in 2015.

The Chong Hack initiative helps young people confront a rising wave of cyber threats—from hacking to phishing to blackmail. Six years on, what began as a targeted awareness campaign on Facebook has evolved into a recognized brand that’s all about young leaders coming together to make cyberspace safer for everyone. They’ve done well. So well, in fact, that we recently passed the Chong Hack brand over to Vietnet–ICT, our local partner that’s been such an effective catalyst for these young champions.

Roots: Celebrities pitch Facebook 2FA

Vietnamese girl doing victory sign.

Since 2009, Facebook use has grown exponentially in Vietnam. Today, nearly three-quarters of the population use the social media network to stay connected. But new potential can bring new risk, and by late 2015, Vietnam was seeing a surge of Facebook account hacking, leading to lost accounts, lost assets and lost identities.

So we joined with our local partners to launch a public awareness campaign. Chong Hack (literally “Fight Hacking”) urged people to protect their Facebook accounts with two-factor authentication (2FA). The call to action was simple: turn on 2FA login protection, then post a “selfie” featuring a two-fingered “2FA salute.” More than 30 celebrities joined in—including pop stars Bảo Thy, Trang Pháp and 365DaBand—earning significant media coverage. Waves of young people followed suit, and the campaign ultimately touched millions of users. In Vietnam’s northern region alone, mobile companies were able to confirm that at least 100,000 people activated 2FA to protect their accounts.

From those roots, Chong Hack progressively grew its scope with new campaigns engaging Vietnamese youth on digital safety as a core life skill. Along the way, something special happened: young people who’d been the project’s audience began to emerge as its lead content creators. In 2019, with SecDev Foundation support, Vietnet-ICT began fostering a Youth Internet Governance Forum (YIGF) committee that raises awareness of digital policy issues. Since then, several of its young members have been producing much of the content for the Chong Hack Facebook community.

Growth: Youth take the reins

Content flowing through Chong Hack continues to evolve to engage its audience. Creators are sharing a wider range of digital safety advice, through a wider range of stories touching everything from tech safety through gaming and pop culture. Driven by youth, for youth, the Chong Hack Facebook community has nearly 200,000 followers and has registered more than a million lifetime engagements. The resource-packed Chong Hack website has attracted more than 660,000 unique users.

It’s the right time for the Foundation to step back. Chong Hack pioneered digital safety campaigning for a mass audience in Vietnam, and it remains the leading platform for youth digital champions to raise awareness and advocate for smart policies. A responsive campaign has grown into a sustainable resource for Vietnam—grounded in a strong partnership between YIGF youth leaders and Vietnet-ICT. So it’s with confidence that we see our partners on the ground take full control of the Chong Hack brand.

Moving forward in Vietnam and beyond

Not just in Vietnam, but across Southeast Asia, cyberspace is being transformed by fast-growing mobile connectivity and social media use. This creates new opportunities for people, but it also exposes them to new online risks. The Foundation is proud to support local partners across the region who are raising public awareness, presenting training opportunities and generating research on the Internet landscape.

As with Chong Hack, we often focus on strengthening the capacity of the changemaker generation—digital natives aged 18-25—to model safer, smarter digital citizenship for all. Other public-outreach brands we’ve helped bring to life include Chum Rum Digital (Khmer-language digital safety tools for Cambodia) and Digital Safety Hub Vietnam (training resources built around self-assessment tools). In Vietnam, youth advocates are now even engaging policymakers to help shape implementation of the country’s National Digital Transformation plan.

In important ways, Chong Hack exemplifies how the Foundation aims to strengthen digital citizenship globally. It’s about coming forward with proven methods and expertise, working closely with local partners who see what works on the ground, and strengthening their capacities to lead. And that also means being ready to step aside when the time is right.