Mock Voting System of “6.22 Civil Referendum” under Severe AttackBack

June 16, 2014


In order to let people get familiar with the e-voting interface of the “6.22 Civil Referendum”, the Public Opinion Programme of The University of Hong Kong (POP) launched the mobile application platform for pre-registration and mock voting on June 13, 2014 (last Friday) at 12:00 noon. The online services for the system were provided by three renowned international and local organizations, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), CloudFlare and UDomain.


The system worked well for around 30 hours, and received over 20,000 successful registrations. Then, all three organizations went under immense distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on a scale rarely seen. The attacks aimed at paralyzing the system but not compromising the security of its information. Record shows that the domain name system (DNS) of AWS received over 10 billion system queries in 20 hours, while CloudFlare and UDomain recorded DDoS attacks in scales of 75Gb per second and 10Gb per second respectively. Practically all attacks to the latter came from local Internet service providers. Because of the astounding magnitude of the attacks, lasting 20-odd hours continuously, the three service providers in an unusual move suspended the services, so the mock voting system could not run smoothly in the past two days. However, the information stored in the system was not affected. According to the preliminary analysis of Internet security experts, in terms of scale and duration, the DDoS attacks on the voting system over the past two days is unprecedented in the history of Hong Kong, compared to similar cases known to the public.


This afternoon, AWS decided to stop providing DNS services to the operation, while UDomain withdrew from providing network security services, leaving CloudFlare the only organization to continue providing limited services. Nevertheless, the next round of enormous cyber attack may happen any time, so the pre-registration and mock voting may stop any time.


POP is currently finding ways to ensure all citizens who wish to participate in the “6.22 Civil Referendum” can cast their votes peacefully and rationally. If needed, some or all modes of voting will be extended.


Robert CHUNG Ting-yiu, Director of POP, observes, “While society is condemning physical violence, it should also condemn verbal violence, political violence as well as cyber violence. We will not be defeated if off-site e-voting cannot be used in the civil referendum. Even if we could only use on-site e-voting, or even worse, only use paper ballots on-site, we will still make it a success. If such a peaceful and rational way of settling disputes cannot work well here, the future of Hong Kong will be very gloomy indeed.”


Media Enquiry: Angel Lai Tel:3917 7700
  Karie Pang Tel:3917 7788