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Online Vote crashes Microsoft Azure Cloud. The favorite gets second place

Mon, 17th September 2012, 12:40

The Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant's attempt for online voting,  American Idol style, was thwarted after attackers yet to be revealed,  brought down the broadcaster's polling system. TVB has set up a team to investigate the alleged cyberattack, which forced a panel of judges to pick the winner.

In an ugly turn, Hong Kong’s netizens condemned the judges' first place choice and others complained to the Communications Authority. Tracy Chu Chin-suet, the public's hot favorite to become Miss Hong Kong, landed second runner-up while Carat Cheung Ming-nga, who was earlier named Miss International Goodwill, was chosen Miss Hong Kong. She will compete for the Miss World title next year.

Initial investigations revealed there were millions of page-hits during the pageant, suggesting a Denial of Service  attack said a spokesman of Microsoft, which provided technical support for TVB for the event.

Microsoft, whose Azure platform was used to power TVB's poll, released a statement claiming that although its cloudy product was not affected, there does appear to have been some foul play:

From the findings of the initial investigation, our engineers identified some unusual data traffic targeting the TVB fun application in the operating records of the related voting system. Within the 15-minute voting period, the system already recorded unusual data traffic which was many times higher than the original expectation. This was substantially higher than the total number of people watching the program and also the total population of Hong Kong.

We therefore have grounds to suspect that the application was attacked by malicious hackers, causing abnormal disruption in the operation of the application and thus the subsequent uploading of related data to the cloud system for further processing.

TVB's deputy director for external affairs Tsang Sing-ming apologized for the blunder. Tsang claimed that the station had expected half a million viewers to vote during the 10-minute slot from 10.45pm to 10.55pm on Sunday, but the traffic exceeded the server's capacity.

No one appears to be focusing on another possible scenario that may have factored into the crash... to attract viewers to vote on Sunday the organizers were giving away a Mini Cooper to one randomly selected voter.

"We will announce another contest related to the pageant for the viewers in a couple of days to give away the prize," Tsang said.  Microsoft may have a chance to redeem Azure yet.. I can hardly wait!