90% of Spain’s Cyber Attacks Target Catalonia During Independence Vote, Government Says

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Two men have a discussion next to a pro-Catalan independence merchandise and information stall displaying posters that read "9N Yes, Independence" and "Now is the Time" (R) in Barcelona November 8, 2014. Paul Hanna/Reuters

According to the Government of Catalonia, 90% of Spain’s cyber attacks during Catalonia’s independence referendum on Sunday occurred in the region, as the official web pages of pro-independence organisations went offline over the weekend, Artur Mas, President of Catalonia said on Tuesday.

According to Mas on Saturday alone “organised cyber attacks” multiplied by 20,000, while on Sunday when polls opened, these attacks peaked at 60,000 times the average number for a normal day.

The unofficial vote on Catalan independence from Spain was not recognised by Madrid and as such, was organised by local government and cultural organisations.

Spanish press reported that throughout the weekend the web pages of Catalonia’s Council of Ministers, the official webpage of the government of Catalonia and the webpage of Catalan president went offline.

Meanwhile pro-independence organisations which assisted in organising the vote such as Catalonia’s Municipal Association for Independence (AMI), Catalan’s language heritage organisation Omniumum and its National Assembly each said they received a systematic wave of calls with no one on the other end of the line.

In AMI’s case, many staff answered over a thousand calls, starting from 8am on Saturday every 30 seconds without anyone on the other end of the line Spanish newspaper ABC reported.

The calls came in “over a short period of time”, rendering some organizers unreachable by phone, resulting in them resorting to organising the vote by Whatsapp, ABC said.

The Catalan News Channel TV3 initially reported the government had said 90% of all cyber attacks detected not only in Spain, but the whole world targetted in Catalonia on Monday.

The Catalan government suggested that the attacks could have come from Spanish government agencies or hackers of Spanish origin who oppose the separatist movement in Catalonia, according to daily Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, though Madrid denies any involvement.

The Catalan government announced on Monday that fewer than half of the region’s eligible voters had taken part in the vote, though polls will be open for another two weeks.

Approximately 2.23 million out of 5.4 million potential voters have cast their ballots in the region-wide referendum which asks Catalans to decide whether Catalonia should be a state and whether it should be a state separate from Spain.

The pro-independence campaign, known as “Si-Si” signifying a ‘Yes’ answer to both questions, has received 80.7% if the vote as of Monday, with only 4.5% having voted no to both.

Neither Spain’s governing Partido Popular (PP), nor its socialist opposition (PSOE) have accepted the possibility of Catalan independence regardless of the vote’s result as both parties maintain the whole of Spain ought to vote if any of its regions were to secede.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the government as saying that 90% of the world's cyber attacks were directed at Catalonia. Following an official statement, this was corrected to 90% of Spain's cyber attacks.