- The Telegram encrypted communication service was briefly taken down yesterday due to a DDoS attack.
- The CEO of the platform accuses Chinese hackers and believes that they are backed by the state.
- The attack coincided with the protests in Hong Kong, that are still ongoing in the territory.
Telegram has announced the reason for the service disruption that occurred yesterday through the following Tweet, and with a funny “whopper lemmings” analogy for the DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack that they suffered. For a short period of time, millions of Telegram users lost the encrypted messaging service, as the attack was apparently too powerful to handle. However, the company has reassured users that their data was safe, as the DDoS attack only overwhelmed their infrastructure and couldn’t possibly cause a breach.
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
Telegram CEO Pavel Durov stated that the vast majority of the IP addresses of the actors originated from China. Coincidentally, the time of the attacks was the same as with the Hong Kong protests. This can’t be an accident of course, as private and encrypted communication apps like Telegram are widely used by protesters who want to organize their next move, so it’s quite possible that the DDoS attack was orchestrated by Chinese state hackers. This, of course, cannot be said with certainty, nor it can be proven right now, but the indications and previous experience point to this scenario as the most probable.
Hong Kong is a special administrative region in the edge of China, acting as an autonomous territory. It’s got its own government, own judicial powers, and own legislative council. The area used to be a British colony until 1997, and according to the handover terms, it should retain its independence until 2047. However, this level of autonomy is no longer acceptable by the Chinese government as it seems, who have pushed for a new law that would enable the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to the mainland. This caused great fear in Hong Kong and is considered a menace to the civil liberties of its citizens. Thus, millions of people are protesting in the streets right now, in what is the greatest social unrest in the history of the territory.
As these demonstrations have been going on for many days now, Telegram has seen similar attempts to take down the service. All of them were similar in size (200-400 GB/sec) and originated in the same geographical regions. Of course, the Chinese government stated nothing about this, while their media mouthpieces are trying to alter reality by presenting the ongoing protests as a sign of the people’s support for the new extradition bill.