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North Korea
North Korea hit by internet shutdown
From the Financial Times of Tue, 23 Dec 2014 03:08:36 GMT
TO GO WITH AFP STORY NKorea-SKorea-media-politics,FEATURE by Lim Chang-Won A man touches a screen showing a web page of Daily NK, an internet newspaper about North Korea, in Seoul on May 7, 2012. Daily NK is one of about a dozen South Korean organisations collecting news about North Korea, through sources inside the hardline communist state and contacts or staffers in neighbouring China. AFP PHOTO/JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/GettyImages)©AFP

North Korea’s links to the internet, already minimal compared with other countries of its size, were cut on Monday in the aftermath of claims by the US that the country had been behind an embarrassing cyber attack against Sony.

The temporary severing of connections was widely seen as retaliation for the Sony hack, in which employee and company details were dumped online before the hackers threatened terrorist attacks against cinemas that screened The Interview , a satirical film depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, forcing Sony to withdraw the film.

Connection was re-established on Tuesday morning after nine and a half hours of outage, according to Dyn Research.

The FBI announced on Friday that it believed North Korea was behind the cyber attack against Sony and warned that it would impose “costs and consequences” on those responsible.

However, the White House refused to comment on whether or not the US had been behind the internet outage in North Korea.

Internet security experts said it was impossible to tell what had caused the failure, partly because of the sparse nature of the connections that normally link North Korea to the wider online world.

The complete internet outage, which began shortly after midnight on Monday, followed a day of intermittent outages in service to the country and was still apparent five hours after it began, according to Dyn Research, a US firm that monitors global internet performance.

Such a pattern of patchy service followed by a total collapse is often evidence of a denial of service attack, where hackers fire large volumes of queries at a network until it is overwhelmed and goes offline, said Jim Cowie, Dyn’s chief scientist. However, he added that it could also point to other intermittent problems, such as instability in a power grid.

Denial of service attacks are among the most common methods of assault against online targets, though the effectiveness of such a retaliation against North Korea has been questioned given the low level of connection the country has with the rest of the online world.

North Korea has only four globally connected internet routes compared with 47 in Yemen and more than 5,000 in Taiwan, countries with roughly the same size population, Mr Cowie said.

The effectiveness of retaliatory cyber attacks against North Korea has been questioned given that online access is limited to a relatively small number of government officials and others.

“Some would argue that the most disruptive response would be to get the internet to every North Korean,” said Corey Thomas, chief executive of Rapid 7, a cyber security firm.

The country’s internet connections to the outside world have a history of instability, due in part to the small number of connections and its reliance on a single internet service provider in China, Mr Cowie said.

The US asked China over the weekend to help it block future cyber attacks emanating from North Korea, according to a senior administration official.

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