The boss of Telegram has claimed that a serious cyber attack on the popular messaging app came from China, raising suspicions about whether the hack was intended to stifle escalating protests in Hong Kong.
Pavel Durov, founder and chief executive of the encrypted messaging service, tweeted that a distributed denial of service attack, which overloaded the company’s servers with “garbage requests”, was tracked to “IP addresses coming mostly from China” and significantly slowed messaging on the app.
“Historically, all state actor-sized [attacks] we experienced coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong,” he tweeted. “This case was not an exception.”
Hong Kong citizens have taken to the streets to protest plans made by Beijing to introduce legislation that would allow extraditions to mainland China for the first time.
Attempts to push the new laws through by the regime have led hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to march through Hong Kong.
Protestors have been using Telegram to communicate given the security of the end-to-end encrypted messaging service, with the app proving to be one of the highest trending services on Apple’s app store in Hong Kong.
Telegram can not be accessed in mainland China due to the “Great Firewall” operated by the government, which blocks selected services. However, the app can be accessed using virtual private networks that offer a way of getting around the firewall.
Citizens of the former British colony have faced growing fears about the response the Chinese government may take to their opposition, as well as wider concerns about the creeping influence Beijing authorities are attempting to exert on the autonomous territory which operates under a “one country two systems” policy.
In some instances, the protests have led to some of the most violent encounters the city has seen in years, as police officers have started to use tear gas to deter crowds and protestors have attempted to storm government buildings. Early discussions of the extradition law led to brawls breaking out in the Hong Kong parliament.
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, the administrative body overseeing the proposal, has delayed a second reading of the controversial bill, which was due to take place on Wednesday, with a future review date not yet decided on.
Telegram confirmed on Wednesday that the service had stabilised since the attack.