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Telegram traces cyber-attack during HK protests to China

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Encrypted messaging service Telegram suffered a major cyber-attack that originated from China, the company’s CEO said Thursday, linking it to the ongoing political unrest in Hong Kong.

Many protesters in the city have used Telegram to evade electronic surveillance and coordinate their demonstrations against a controversial Beijing-backed plan that would allow extraditions from the semi-autonomous territory to the mainland.

Demonstrations descended into violence Wednesday as police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters who tried to storm the city’s parliament — the worst political crisis Hong Kong has seen since its 1997 handover from Britain to China.

Telegram announced Wednesday that it was suffering a “powerful” Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, which involves a hacker overwhelming a target’s servers by making a massive number of junk requests.

It warned that users in many regions may face connection issues.

Pavel Durov, Telegram’s CEO, said the junk requests came mostly from China.

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GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File / Steve Jennings Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has pointed at China over the massive cyber-attack on its servers, linking it to the ongoing protests in Hong Kong

“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),” he tweeted.

“This case was not an exception.”

Telegram later announced on Twitter that its service had stabilised. It also posted a series of tweets explaining the nature of the attack.

“Imagine that an army of lemmings just jumped the queue at McDonald’s in front of you -– and each is ordering a whopper,” it said, referring to the flagship product of Burger King.

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“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.”

– Evading surveillance –

When asked about Durov’s claim the attack originated from China, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said he was not aware of the incident.

AFP/File / Yuri KADOBNOV Encrypted messaging apps like Telegram are used around the world by a wide variety of people trying to avoid surveillance by authorities

“What I can tell you here is that China has always opposed any form of cyber-attacks. China is also a victim of cyber-attacks,” Geng said at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

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China’s cyberspace administration did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

Telegram was launched in 2013, and allows users to exchange encrypted text messages, photos and videos, and also create “channels” for as many as 200,000 people. It also supports encrypted voice calls.

The firm announced last year that it had crossed 200 million monthly active users.

Encrypted messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp are preferred around the world by a wide variety of people trying to avoid surveillance by authorities — from Islamic State jihadists and drug dealers to human rights activists and journalists.

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Governments in recent years have devoted significant resources to try and breach or bypass the security features of these apps, according to tech firms and researchers. Some states have outright banned them.

Hong Kong is not behind China’s Great Firewall, which heavily restricts internet access in the mainland — where Telegram is blocked.

The city’s special status under its handover agreement allows freedoms unseen in mainland China, but many fear they are under threat as Beijing exerts increasing influence on Hong Kong.

The current protests were sparked by fears the proposed law would allow extraditions to China and leave people exposed to the mainland’s politicised and opaque justice system.

Report typos and corrections to [email protected].
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WATCH: Here’s the secret to dissecting Trump’s chaotic distractions

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In an extended examination on MSNBC, host Ari Melber took a hard look at how President Donald Trump creates almost daily distractions for the media and the public to keep the focus off his multiple scandals and to make it look like he is doing something -- when all he is doing is creating controversy for controversy's sake.

Put simply, Melber explained, the president's tweets out some plan he has no intention of implementing, hypes it up for days -- then drops it like it never happened.

Using Trump's aborted attack on Iran as a jumping off point, Melber -- and his panel -- explained that Trump's style of governing is based on "head fakes" and "bluffs."

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Chuck Todd’s terrible interview with fabricator-in-chief Trump snapped the tether: From here on out there’s no truth

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Nothing will ever be the same again. Donald Trump’s unwavering disregard for reality and his acts of violence against the truth are rapidly metastasizing into the marrow of the national debate. I'm not sure we have enough heroes in this country to successfully extricate Trumpism and toss it into the biohazard waste bin of history, along other embarrassments in America's mixed record.

The very fabric of right and wrong in America is disintegrating as one of our two major parties, with some crucial help from Russia, has convinced four out of every 10 voters that verifiable truth is nothing more than a fake news plot against them and their beloved Fifth Avenue Clampetts. As a result, half of the political debate, from the local level on up, is built exclusively on wrongness — on total nonsense, invented by Trump himself along with his propaganda cable network.

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New York’s legislature gives landlords a lesson in democracy

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The knockout punch that the New York State Legislature just landed fighting landlords over spiraling rents ought to be attracting wider attention.

Just as with healthcare access or prescription drug prices, the cost of rent increases that mostly benefit big apartment owners is a challenge to the income-gap society that are at the heart of the national political debate. Every urban center in the country is having housing problems, and rents, like mortgages, are a subject at every kitchen table.

For once, the New York Legislature, whose Democrats overcame internecine divisions this session, has abolished rules that let building owners deregulate apartments, and closed loopholes that have permitted landlords to raise rents. And the changes for better tenant protection were made permanent, eliminating the recurring drama over these issues.

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