LIHKG - a Hong Kong-based forum similar to the mega-popular Reddit - has been attacked by the Great Cannon, a tool to launch DDoS attacks by injecting a script that intercepts massive amounts of traffic and redirects it to targeted sites.
Since March, LIHKG has become a major forum for disseminating and discussing Hong Kong protest strategy. The attack on the site began ahead of the August 31 rally, which was declared illegal by the Chinese authorities.
Between 08:00 and 23:59 on August 31st, 1.5 billion requests hit the website, according to the forum's official announcement. At the peak of the attack, the forum received up to 260 thousand requests per second and 6.5 million unique visitors per hour, which it could not cope with. Given the scale, the administration of the forum came to the conclusion that the state intervened.
Later, the security service restored the site to work, however, LIHKG was unstable for several more days. According to its administrators, massive traffic to the forum was redirected through the Chinese Internet companies Qihucdn.com and Baidu.
Such an aggressive attack from the light hand of the human rights research center of information and communication technologies at the University of Toronto Citizen Lab has been dubbed "The Great Cannon of China."
In 2015, the center discovered that The Great Cannon of China was capable of “manipulating third-party systems outside of China, ” discreetly reconfiguring their browsers to create massive DDoS attacks. They resemble the NSA's QUANTUM system and are capable of "using any foreign computer that interacts with Chinese websites that do not use HTTPS."
The LIHKG incident is far from isolated. Most independent media and civic forums in Hong Kong have been subjected to similar attacks from the authorities, who already understand that they cannot cope with mass protests only by the police and the army.