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Tech firm says NDP vote hit with thousands of malicious requests

A delegate wears a Brian Topp hat in the fourth round of voting during the NDP leadership convention in Toronto, March 24, 2012. CP/Chris Young

More than 10,000 “malevolent” Internet addresses were used in an effort to jam the NDP leadership convention’s online voting system on the weekend, according to the tech company that ran the vote.

The denial-of-service attack delayed voting for several hours and pushed the crowning of new NDP leader Thomas Mulcair late into Saturday evening.

Some observers of the convention immediately claimed the technical delays as evidence that New Democrats are not ready to govern.

But a statement Tuesday from Scytl Canada, which ran the online vote, described Saturday’s cyber attack as an organized, professional and illegal effort.

“We deeply regret the inconvenience to NDP voters caused by this malicious, massive, orchestrated attempt to thwart democracy,” Susan Crutchlow, the general manager of Scytl Canada, said in a release.

“We are proud, however, that our robust system, which is used by many governments around the world, repelled this attack, did not crash, and completed its mission of giving all NDP members who wished to vote the opportunity to do so securely.”

The Spain-based company also thanked the party for its patience with the long delays caused by the attack.

Scytl said it has identified well over 10,000 IP addresses that generated “many hundreds of thousands” of false voting requests to the system.

“This effectively ‘jammed up the pipe’ into the voting system, delaying voter access,” said the company statement.

The so-called “botnet” used computers around the world, but mainly in Canada, said Scytl.

Long delays in voting at the NDP convention were first attributed by the party to larger-than-expected demand, but only about 9,500 votes of the 65,000 total were generated on the weekend, with the vast majority of party members voting in advance.

The nature of the attack adds to a season of online intrigue that has rocked the federal political scene.

The Conservative party has been fending off allegations that campaign operatives used robocalling tactics in last May’s election to suppress voting support for their opponents in certain ridings.

Elections Canada is investigating reports that voters in Guelph, Ont., received calls from a phone number with a 450 area code directing them to the wrong polling station. Phone records show the number behind the Guelph calls was the same one registered to “Pierre Poutine” of “Separatist Street” in Joliette, Que.

Hundreds of voters, covering a number of ridings, have reported receiving similar fake calls purportedly from Elections Canada directing them to non-existent polling stations.

Former Liberal party staffer Adam Carroll, meanwhile, was forced to quit after using a House of Commons computer and an anonymous Twitter account to disclose details of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews’ acrimonious divorce.

The account was set up in the wake of the introduction of an online surveillance bill that would give authorities expanded powers to gain people’s Internet information, raising privacy concerns among a wide cross-section of critics.