- Miss HK turns ugly
- TVB: Hacking might cause Miss HK voting system failure
- Miss Hong Kong voting saga -- Microsoft explains
First published: 28th August 2012
Uncertainty surrounds the collapse of the online voting system for the Miss Hong kong beauty pageant. The online poll was run by TVB, the broadcaster of the event, and it is thought to be powered by Windows Azure technology. TVB was quick to blame unknown hackers for disrupting the system with an overload of traffic that started 15 minutes before the 10 minute period allocated for voting. TVB expected about 500,000 votes to be cast during that time, however, reports varied about the traffic that caused the overload. TVB was claimed to have told local Chinese daily Ming Pao 800,000 to one million participants tried to vote, but also said that the number was unknown. A report in the South China Morning Post said that more than 14 million attempts to access the website were made.
Other details, such as the number of prior downloads of the smartphone App for voting and its operation were not available.
Yui Kee's Chief Consultant Allan Dyer speculated wildly about the cause, saying, "Was it incompetance, enthusiasm or greed?" He outlined these three scenarios in more detail:
Dyer concluded, "There's not enough information available to choose between them. My guess would be the first scenario, it's easier to say 'we were attacked' than admitting you messed up."
Updated: 29th August 2012
Richard Stagg, Managing Consultant at Handshake Networking added a fourth scenario:
Stagg commented, "Speculation aside, my money is also on 'TVB don't understand capacity planning'."
Further information about the Miss Hong Kong voting saga is emerging. Asiacloud Forum has an interview with Chin-Tang Chin, a director at Microsoft Hong Kong. He explains that the underlying cloud platform was Windows Azure and voting could be done through a web application or a mobile application, each developed by different companies.
Chin also clarified that user scenarios including using multiple devices or even writing computer programmes to generate lots of web requests in order to win the lucky draw were within the designer's expectations.
To vote, a user needed to enter their HKID number and their choice of candidate. Each Hong Kong resident has a unique HKID number, so this might seem to be a simple way of ensuring voters are Hong Kong residents, and preventing ballot-stuffing. However, it is a trivial exercise to generate numbers that match the pattern of an HKID number, with a valid check-digit.