The popular encrypted messaging service Telegram is once again being hit with a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack in Asia as protestors in Hong Kong take to the streets.
For the last several days, Hong Kong has been overrun with demonstrators protesting a new law that would put the municipality more directly under the control of mainland China’s authoritarian government.
One of the tools that organizers have turned to is the encrypted messaging service, Telegram, and other secure messaging technologies, as they look to evade surveillance measures by government officials.
Telegram first commented on the attack via Twitter roughly 17 hours ago in the late afternoon on Wednesday in Hong Kong.
The company went on to describe a distributed denial of service attack as when “your servers get GADZILLIONS of garbage requests which stop them from processing legitimate requests. Imagine that an army of lemmings just jumped the queue at McDonald’s in front of you – and each is ordering a whopper,” according to Telegram. “The server is busy telling the whopper lemmings they came to the wrong place – but there are so many of them that the server can’t even see you to try and take your order.”
This isn’t the first time that someone has tried to take down Telegram at a time when China was experiencing significant unrest. Four years ago, a similar attack struck the company’s service, just as China was initiating a crackdown on human rights lawyers in the country.
An article in the Hong Kong Free Press described the situation on the mainland, where the company’s web version of its app was blocked from servers in Beijing, Inner Mongolia, Heilongjiang, Shenzhen and Yunnan.
At the time, a lawyer involved in human rights cases was made to confess on state television about his involvement in the malfeasance and lawyers’ use of Telegram to hide messages from surveillance.
According to the state-run newspaper China Daily, lawyers were using the Telegram app for “attacks on the [Communist] Party and government.”
At the time of the last attack, Telegram and its chief executive, Pavel Durov, did not comment on who was to blame for the denial of service attacks.
Now, the outspoken chief executive isn’t mincing any words. “IP addresses coming mostly from China,” Durov tweeted. “Historically, all state actor-sized DDoS (200-400 Gb/s of junk) we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong (coordinated on @telegram). This case was not an exception.”