The full fury of the Internet attack started three hours before polls opened. As people in Hong Kong prepared to cast electronic ballots in an effort to show Chinese authorities their hunger for democracy, hackers opened fire with a potent effort to derail the vote. Suddenly, a flood of data swarmed the servers designed to handle the voting in a poll held by Occupy Central with Love and Peace, a burgeoning protest movement that has sought the right for Hong Kong people to nominate and elect their own chief executive, the territory’s most powerful position. But the informal vote on universal suffrage was attacked by at least 300 gigabits of data per second – and perhaps as high as 600, a level not before reached in a publicly disclosed hacking attack. The torrent reached 200 million packets, or tiny bits of data, per second. It was “just a stunning amount of traffic,” said Matthew Prince, chief executive officer of CloudFlare, the San Francisco-based Internet security company that managed to keep the website online.
The number of packets they had to parry was huge, “within an order of magnitude of what Google has to deal with in its entire infrastructure.”
And it wasn’t just once. As hundreds of thousands of people in Hong Kong sought to use the informal poll to register their displeasure with China’s rule, the volume of packets hit 200 million per second “easily a dozen times” over the weekend, continuing into Monday in Hong Kong, Mr. Prince said.
It was, he believes, the biggest and most sophisticated hacking attack of its kind.
But the size of the attack was matched by the size of the turnout. Observers thought perhaps 290,000 and 350,000 people might turn out.