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Hong Kong Protester Forum Says Some DDoS Attacks Came From China

Shelly Banjo

(Bloomberg) -- An online service used by Hong Kong demonstrators said a large digital attack that knocked out its servers briefly over the weekend was unprecedented and originated in some cases from websites in China.

LIHKG, a forum that’s been used for organizing mass rallies in Hong Kong, posted a statement online after it was the target of what’s known as a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack, or a flood of traffic that disables a site by overwhelming its computers. Total requests to the site hit 1.5 billion and unique visitors surged to 6.5 million per hour, the group said.

“We have reasons to believe that there is a power, or even a national level power behind to organise such attacks as botnet from all over the world were manipulated in launching this attack,” the statement read.

The Hong Kong protests began in June over a bill allowing extraditions to mainland China and have evolved into a wider push against Beijing’s expanding control over the city. Participants, often under the controversial slogan “Liberate Hong Kong; revolution of our times,” have used digital services like LIHKG and Telegram to organize secretly.

Digital Attack Map, which provides information on daily cyber attacks around the world, showed the financial hub at the heart of a DDoS attack in recent days, as protesters clashed with police. While some of LIHKG’s services were interrupted, it was fully restored hours later, according to a post on Twitter.

Read more: How Hong Kong’s Leaderless Protest Army Gets Things Done

LIHKG warned that its app may still be subject to attack and its security team is working to fend off further trouble. It said users could switch to the website version of its service if they encounter difficulty. The site said its users had shared that some of the attacks originated from websites in China.

“We deeply apologise for the unstableness of the service,” the statement said. The operators of the site have kept their identities hidden during the protests and did not respond to queries for comment.

This is the second large cyber attack to hit apps used this summer by protesters to organize during unrest in Hong Kong. In June, messaging service Telegram said it had been hit by a powerful attack coming out of China.

The protesters’ use of messaging apps and chat rooms has allowed them to quickly change and implement plans, frustrating government efforts to control them.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam said last week that she wouldn’t rule out all measures to quell protests, including invoking an emergency rule that would allow her to unilaterally shut down the internet or selectively block apps that were helping protesters organize.

How Hong Kong Protests Could Lead to Internet Cut Off: QuickTake

To contact the reporter on this story: Shelly Banjo in Hong Kong at sbanjo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Elstrom at pelstrom@bloomberg.net

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