What It Means To Shut Off North Korea's Internet, In A Sentence

Kim Jong Un with a logitech mousevia ReutersSupreme Leader Kim Jong-un working on some very outdated equipment.

Yesterday, North Korea’s four internet networks went offline for 9 hours.  

Reuters explained who the outage affected:

“Current and former U.S. law enforcement and security officials said only a tiny number of people in North Korea’s leadership have access to the Internet, and that almost all its Internet links and traffic pass through China.”

Dyn Research notes that “North Korea has significantly less Internet to lose, compared to other countries with similar populations: Yemen (47 networks), Afghanistan (370 networks), or Taiwan (5,030 networks).”

It’s unclear who or what caused the outage. Dyn, which first noticed the irregularities, says that the incident “seems consistent with a fragile network under external attack” as well as “more common causes, such as power problems.”

Matthew Prince, CEO of U.S.-based CloudFlare, told Reuters that it wouldn’t be that hard to overload North Korea’s fragile network with a basic distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. He added that the fact that North Korea’s Internet is now restored “is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn’t caused by a state-sponsored attack, otherwise it’d likely still be down for the count.”

Alternatively, a cyber attack leading to a temporary outage could be a message to North Korea’s leadership (and perhaps its benefactors in Beijing).  

If North Korea suffered from some kind of cyberattack, it’s likely related to the Sony hack. A hacker group named Guardians of Peace took over the computer network of Sony Pictures, forcing it to cancel the release of “The Interview.”

The US government has formally blamed North Korea. Pyongyang has praised the hack but denies involvement.

In any case, for some perspective on North Korea’s connectivity on a good day, here’s a look at North Korea at night in 2013:

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