North Korea’s internet service is offline. Internet monitors say that on Monday, following days of instability, the communist country’s access links to the world wide web were completely offline. The failure is being described as “one of the worst North Korean network failures in years.”
Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, said that North Korean Internet access first became unstable late Friday and worsened over the weekend. By Monday, North Korea’s Internet was completely offline.
“Their networks are under duress,” Mr. Madory said. “This is consistent with a DDoS attack on their routers,” he said.
A “distributed denial of service” attack is composed of a flood of attackers hitting a network with extreme amounts of traffic until the entire system collapses under the load.
San Fransisco based internet company CloudFlare confirmed Monday that North Korea’s Internet access was “toast.” Cloudflare’s founder, Matthew Prince, wrote in an email that large number of North Korea’s connections had been withdrawn, “showing that the North Korean network has gone away.”
The failure comes just days after U.S. President Barack Obama vowed that the United States would launch a “proportional response” to recent attacks and threats aimed at Sony Pictures. While an attack is suspected there is no definitive proof but it’s been reported that Obama asked for help in combating the problem from China. North Korea’s 1,024 IP addresses are managed by Star Joint Venture, the state-run Internet provider, which routes many of those connections through, you guessed it – China Unicom, China’s state-owned telecommunications company. China has publicly snubbed the request.
By contrast, the United States has billions of registered IP addresses.
As most North Korean citizens don’t have access to the internet, the loss of service will likely only effect the country’s élite, state-run media channels and propagandists as well as its little army of cyberwarriors who will find it difficult to wage cyber terrorism without an internet connection.
To this point most U.S. operations regarding the internet have amounted to “cyber espionage” mostly aimed at collecting defense information or terror related communications. This latest DDOS attack on North Korea, however, amounts to what most refer to as “cybervandalism,” – a term Obama used to describe North Korea’s actions against Sony.
It’s also possible it isn’t an attack at all. North Korea could simply be taking its own systems offline in preparation for an attack or it could be an attack by a group of hackers unrelated to the U.S. federal government. The popular vigilante hacker group Anonymous, however, has not taken credit for the failure at the time of this writing.
Experts agree that it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of the outage, especially considering North Korea’s tiny amount of internet connectivity, and confirm all that’s known definitively is that North Korea’s networks are “under duress,” in a way which has never been seen before.
While the outage will impose some costs, it’s likely very short-term.