Popvote, the HKU platform set to be used in a city-wide democracy referendum this weekend, has been targeted in an extensive cyber-attack. One of the Popvote servers received ten billion ‘requests’ in just 20 hours – flooding the website with traffic and forcing it offline. The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack – which originated locally – is still preventing Hong Kongers from registering to vote for their favourite plan for democracy this Sunday. Around 20,000 people successfully registered before the Amazon-hosted system was paralysed.
Organisers have urged citizens to turn up in-person at polling stations as another attack may occur this week. PopVote is working with Cloudfare’s Project Galileo, an initiative that helps combat such attacks, but the security system itself struggled to absorb 75 gigabytes of malicious traffic. Kenneth Carter, Counsel at CloudFlare, said that they “do not discuss our customers or their account status without their permission“, but it is understood that they remain committed to protecting the PopVote network.
In a statement, the Occupy Central with Love & Peace movement said that the unprecedented incident was an attempt to silence people’s voices…
HKU academic and director of the PopVote programme, Dr. Robert Ting-Yiu Chung, said, “When people condemn physical violence, they should also condemn violent language, political violence and technological violence. Let’s not get frustrated if we can’t vote through the online system. Even if we have to rely solely on paper votes, we are determined to carry out the voting properly. Because Hong Kong’s future is bleak if such a peaceful means of resolving disputes could not be carried out.”
Organisers have produced a map of voting locations.
The cyber-attack came days after CCTV and the SCMP attempted to link unrelated clashes at government headquarters last Friday to the pro-democracy Occupy campaign, quoting anonymous official sources. Earlier this month, websites for the Tiananmen vigil organisers were down for almost a week after also coming under widespread attack.