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Hungarian opposition primary continuing after a bad start

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Hungary – Voting in the primary elections organized by six Hungarian opposition parties – DK, Jobbik, LMP, Momentum, MSZP, and Párbeszéd – to choose joint candidates both for the post of Prime Minister and in each of the 106 constituencies began on Saturday 18 September at 6 a.m., before being suspended a few hours later and resuming on Monday 20 September at 7 a.m. The opposition has denounced a cyber attack on the computer system used for the process, as a result of which the vote will end two days later than previously planned, on 28 September at 8 p.m.

Large-scale cyber attack, with China and Fidesz blamed

According to a statement from the National Primary Election Committee released midday Saturday,

the primary’s computer systems were affected by a large-scale cyber attack whose origins are unknown at this time […] This was not a simple, well-known form of attack, but a more complex attempt involving many steps.

Continuing the primary elections at this stage would pose a technical risk of unknown severity.

The six participating parties pointed to Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz as the culprit, arguing, without elaborating, that Fidesz had an interest in the primary being sabotaged. Dávid Bedő, a Momentum member of the National Primary Election Committee, says the internal investigation into the attack has shown it came from China.

An under-designed computer system?

Apart from the hypothesis of an external computer attack, according to some computer experts consulted by Index, either the system was “under-designed” and therefore did not support a large number of people wanting to participate in the vote, or there was indeed an “overload attack” artificially causing the same effect. Such a system “is usually stress-tested” beforehand, so either the system was “badly tested” or there was in fact an external attack. Nevertheless,

in case of an external attack, a system should not shut down for two days”,

which would imply that “the system was not properly prepared against an overload attack”.

It is therefore possible that there was indeed a cyber attack on the opposition primary computer system, and that the system had not been properly designed to withstand such an attack. “Let them not blame others for their own blunders”, Fidesz said 24 hours after being held responsible by the opposition.