Telegram suffered a huge cyberattack during the Hong Kong protests, and it’s blaming China

Protests have been raging in Hong Kong over a new extradition bill.

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Protests have been raging in Hong Kong over a new extradition bill.
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REUTERS/Thomas Peter

  • Telegram on Wednesday announced it was experiencing connection problems as the result of a huge cyberattack on its servers.
  • The distributed denial-of-service attack overloaded the servers with phony requests, disrupting connection to the internet.
  • Telegram’s founder, Pavel Durov, tweeted that most of the attacking IP addresses were based in China. He said “state actor-sized” attacks had coincided with protests in Hong Kong.
  • Hong Kong is seeing mass demonstrations over the introduction of a new extradition bill that would allow citizens to be brought to mainland China for trial.
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The encrypted messaging service Telegram was overloaded by a distributed denial-of-service attack on Wednesday that its founder said had its roots in China.

A DDoS attack is carried out by taking control of devices infected with malware to overload targeted servers with huge numbers of requests, disrupting the servers’ connection to the internet.

Telegram announced the attack on Twitter and said users in the Americas and “some users from other countries” would experience connection problems. It later added that the situation had “stabilized.” Telegram has more than 200 million monthly active users.

Its founder, Pavel Durov, added that the attack was “state actor-sized” and had primarily come from IP addresses based in China. He said it coincided with the mass protests in Hong Kong.

Those protests are in response to a proposed extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to mainland China for trial. Critics of the bill say it would diminish Hong Kong’s semiautonomous status and could cause citizens to be tried unfairly, as the mainland has weaker legal protections.

Read more: Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong to express their outrage against a bill that would allow residents to be tried in China

Bloomberg reported Thursday that Telegram was trending in the Hong Kong Apple App Store alongside the peer-to-peer messaging app Firechat. The administrator of a Telegram group with 30,000 members was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of “conspiracy to commit public nuisance,” the South China Morning Post reported.

Bloomberg further reported that protesters had been wearing masks to avoid detection by facial recognition and avoiding public-transit cards traceable to their identities.