The CEO of messaging service Telegram has suggested that a recent cyber attack on the encrypted chat platform was the work of the Chinese government as part of an attempt to disrupt use of the app to coordinate ongoing protests in Hong Kong.
Telegram founder Pavel Durov said the messaging service experienced a “state actor-sized” distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack yesterday and this morning after “garbage requests” flooded its servers and disrupted communications.
DDoS attacks typically work through the use of botnets – often operating on hijacked computers infected with malware – which bombard servers with redundant requests to prevent them from processing legitimate requests.
We’re currently experiencing a powerful DDoS attack, Telegram users in the Americas and some users from other countries may experience connection issues.
— Telegram Messenger (@telegram) June 12, 2019
Most of those requests came from IP addresses originating in China and appeared to be coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong, founder Pavel Durov said in a later Twitter post.
Protesters in the hundreds and thousands have been marching through Hong Kong’s streets this week in opposition to a controversial law that would allow people in the city to be extradited to China.
Chinese state media have condemned the protests, which they claim is being motivated by outside forces and risks undermining social stability in the region.
This isn’t the first time apps have been blocked in Hong Kong. In 2014, China’s cyberspace administration cut access to Instagram during the city’s Umbrella Movement, which used umbrellas as a tool of passive resistance to the police’s use of pepper spray on protestors who were seeking more transparent elections.
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