N Korea’s Internet goes dark amid escalating Sony hack row: report

US Internet monitoring firm claims total outage, days after Washington pledges response

Tags: Cyber crimeDDoSIncapsula (www.incapsula.com)North KoreaSony CorporationTrend Micro IncorporatedUSA
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N Korea’s Internet goes dark amid escalating Sony hack row: report Kim Jong Un’s government has denied involvement in the attack on Sony Pictures. (Getty Images)
By  Stephen McBride Published  December 23, 2014

North Korea had previously been on record as denouncing a forthcoming movie from Sony portraying the assassination of Kim, but has strongly denied direct involvement in the attack on Sony, instead choosing to praise "supporters" for carrying out the "righteous" operation. When Pyongyang's call for a joint investigation with US officials was rejected by Washington over the weekend, Kim's government pledged retaliatory strikes, of an indeterminate nature, on the US.

When the North lost Internet coverage, Dyn said it subsequently managed to restore it.

"We're yet to see how stable the new connection is," Jim Cowie, chief scientist for the company, told Reuters.

"The question for the next few hours is whether it will return to the unstable fluctuations we saw before the outage."

It is widely believed that only a privileged handful of North Korea's 24m population is allowed Internet access and according to Dyn, the country depends on a single provider, China Unicom, for traffic.

"When organisations - nation states or commercial entities - rely on a single Internet service provider and a small range of IP addresses, they make themselves easy prey," said Incapsula's Gayer. "Attackers have a single target - the one connection to the Internet backbone - to flood with traffic, effectively taking them offline."

The US this week reportedly asked China, one of North Korea's few allies, to send a strong message to Pyongyang by repatriating known hackers from the hermit nation, and disabling servers and routers used by North Korea that are part of Chinese networks.

In a separate incident, South Korea, which technically remains at war with the North, experienced a cyber-attack on a nuclear power plant. Command-and-control systems were reportedly not compromised and only resulted in the theft of non-critical data, but President Park Geun-hye today characterised the incident as a "grave situation". According to Reuters, South Korean officials would not rule out the North as a suspect.

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