Catalonia 'suffered cyber attack in independence vote'

AFP , Tuesday 11 Nov 2014

Catalan President Artur Mas speaks at the media center in Barcelona after a symbolic independence vote in Barcelona, November 9, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Catalan authorities suffered a massive cyberattack while the region was voting in an independence ballot outlawed by Madrid, their leader said on Tuesday.

On polling day Sunday, the regional government's computer systems received 60,000 times more hits than usual in "hard, organised cybernetic attacks", said its president Artur Mas.

"They tried to take down the Catalan government's computer systems."

He was speaking to reporters in his first public address since Sunday's polls, in which 2.3 million people turned out to vote on whether the rich region should break away from Spain.

Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy fiercely opposed the vote and has not reacted since the polls on Sunday, in which 1.86 million people voted for independence.

Mas reached out to Rajoy on Tuesday, saying it was time Madrid entered into a "permanent dialogue" with Catalonia.

He said he had written to Rajoy inviting him "to set the conditions for a dialogue that is permanent and as constructive as possible".

The ultimate aim of the dialogue is to hold "a definitive and politically binding consultation" vote, Mas added.

"The issue we are faced with can only be resolved at the top political level."

Describing the cyberattack, Mas said that hits on his government's computer systems multiplied 20,000 times on Saturday and 60,000 on Sunday.

"Never before had we suffered an organised attack of such scale and characteristics," he said, adding that the assault had threatened to disrupt medical services.

"We suspect that it could not just be a few amateur hackers or Twitter users who organised such a thing," he said. "We are examining another possibility."

The leading Catalan pro-independence lobby ANC said hundreds of its members who worked as volunteers running Sunday's vote had their telephones jammed.

One ANC volunteer during the vote showed AFP how his telephone was receiving unsolicited automated calls every 30 seconds for hours.

Mas said he would hold talks over the coming weeks with Catalan political parties that support the right to vote on independence, to plan his next steps.

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