The electronic referendum system for Hong Kong citizens to select their preferred method of nominating candidates for the 2017 Chief Executive election has been hacked and paralyzed in the past two days, causing the organizer to consider contingency plans, Ming Pao Daily reported Tuesday.
The mock referendum, which is set to last three days from June 20, is conducted through a PopVote system by the Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong (HKU POP), in an exercise commissioned by the Occupy Central movement. The system has begun to accept registrations by interested citizens through mobile phones since last Friday.
According to HKU POP, the computer servers of its three service providers have been under large-scale distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, in which a multitude of compromised systems attack a single target. One of the three had seen up to 10 billion system inquires within 20 hours and led to system paralysis. An expert estimated that there should be at least 5,000 or possibly more than 10,000 computers launching the attack
Two service providers, Amazon Web Services and UDomain have decided to back out, while CloudFlare will continue limited services.
HKU POP said it plans to seek police help. But as it will take time to gather evidence, Chan Kin-man, one of the founders of the Occupy Central protest movement, said contingency plans are in the pipeline, including allowing citizens to vote through ballots at designated booths. Another co-founder Benny Tai Yiu-ting said it is disappointing to see service providers back out. HKU POP is doing its best to find replacements, he said.
If the electronic platform cannot be restored, HKU POP plans to offer its own 125 lines for voters on June 22. But those lines can accept no more than 70,000 votes in 12 hours during a day. Meanwhile, there could be an announcement Wednesday on whether the referendum deadline will be extended.
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