The encrypted messaging app Telegram said it was the target of a “powerful” cyberattack originating from China that disrupted service for some users.
Pavel Durov, the company’s founder and CEO, said on Twitter on Wednesday night that the distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack coincided with protests in Hong Kong against a bill that would allow the city to extradite people to mainland China.
Durov said that every major DDoS attack it has experienced “coincided in time with protests in Hong Kong.”
DDoS attacks aim to cripple online services by flooding them with massive amounts of traffic that can slow them to a crawl.
“Imagine that an army of lemmings just jumped the queue at McDonald’s in front of you – and each is ordering a whopper,” Telegram wrote on Twitter. “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.”
The company said that while the attacks had disrupted its service, Telegram’s encryption remained intact and user messages were safe.
According to The New York Times, the Chinese government denied that it was behind the incident and noted that it has been the target of cyberattacks itself.
“We have always advocated that the international community should jointly safeguard the security of cyberspace through dialogue and cooperation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, according to the Times.