North Korea was taken offline for 9 1/2 hours earlier this month, possibly as the result of a distributed denial of service attack. It wouldn’t take much to DDOS the entirety of North Korea: the country has only one pathway to the internet, through a connection with a “backbone” network hosted by a Chinese state-owned telecom company.
Prosperous and politically open countries, like the United States, are connected to the internet through tens of thousands of meta-networks deeply embedded in the web’s global architecture. Needless to say, not everywhere is like this. North Korea isn’t the only country with a single internet choke-point.
A late 2012 blog post from Dyn Research — whose head of internet analysis, Doug Madory, was the first to make this week’s North Korean outage public — looks at the countries that are most at risk for wide-scale outages. The post found that countries with fewer than 10 internet service providers were at heightened risk for a national outage; countries with more than 40 had almost no risk at all.
Countries with only 1 or 2 national providers were at “severe risk.” Incredibly, 61 political entities fell into this category in November of 2012, including authoritarian states like Turkmenistan and Syria, poor or chaotic countries like Libya and Yemen, and small yet prosperous and open countries like Barbados, Monaco, and Andorra. Sparsely-populated islands understandably litter the list of severe-risk countries. But it also includes Ethiopia, a single-party dictatorship with a population of over 94 million.
This map shows which countries have the fewest connections to the global web, putting them the most at risk for disconnection:
Dyn’s map is over two years old. But it gives an idea of how many places still depend on a single, often government-controlled connection to the global web.
And it shows how vulnerable much of the world’s internet is to a DDOS attack requiring little actual technical skills.
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