China found itself on the receiving end of a massive denial-of-service attack this weekend that reportedly disrupted and slowed access to millions of websites, including major properties like Amazon.cn, Sina’s social networking site Weibo and Bank of China. According to the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), the attack specifically targeted the country’s .cn servers, starting at around 2 a.m. local time on Sunday and followed by a more intense attack at 4 a.m. Service has been gradually restored since then.
While official details are scarce at the moment, CloudFlare CEO Matthew Prince told the WSJ that the company saw a steep drop in traffic from the country, dipping 32 percent below its normal traffic for that hour.
CNNIC described this as the largest denial-of-service attack the country has ever faced and says they’ve already launched measures to protect the domain system. It's unclear where the attack originated from or if it’s still ongoing; a spokeswoman for the entity said it would update the public once more information was gathered.
Motives behind the attack are also unknown and unlikely to be publicly revealed. The Wall Street Journal notes the timing coincides with the government wrapping up the trial of former Communist Party heavyweight Bo Xilai, over alleged corruption and abuse of power, and a crackdown on ‘social commentators’ (i.e. influential people taking on social networks to discuss sensitive topics within the nation).
As far as potential perpetrators, while the country has previously said it’s seeing an increase in attacks coming from the US, South Korea and Germany, CloudFlare says the attack could have been carried out by a single individual. China itself has often been accused of launching DDoS attacks; in fact, it was the top source country for DDoS attacks in Q4 2012, according to Akamai's State of the Internet report, with the US coming in second.