While North Korea spent the weekend rattling sabers over President Obama’s statement that America would exercise “proportional response” in dealing with the cyber attack on Sony which resulted in the cancelation of The Interview, its connection with the outside world slowly, but surely, grew more unstable.
The problems began on Friday – not long after Obama’s final press conference of year wrapped up. The 1,024 registered IP addresses managed by Star Joint Venture, the state-run Internet service provider, began to struggle with connection problems. Now it appears all those IP addresses aren’t functional.
The exact reason for the sudden problem is not known, but the timing is obviously suspicious. Internet analyst Doug Madory, speaking to The New York Times, commented the disruption is “consistent with a DDoS attack on their routers.” DDoS, or distributed denial of service, brings down a network by overloading it with requests from numerous locations. No United States government agency has commented on this recent outage.
There is a chance the problem is actually simple maintenance, but the scale of the outage makes such an explanation unlikely. North Korea’s limited list of IP addresses, and thus limited number of active connections, is carefully controlled by the state. Only high-ranking government personnel have access.
Another possible explanation is a preemptive withdraw in anticipation of an attack. Taking down the Internet entirely might seem an extreme response, but the fact access is so tightly controlled would make the effort far easier for North Korea than for most countries.
Whatever the reason, an outage of this scale has no precedent. The country has never severed all of its connections for maintenance before and has never experienced an attack large enough to do the same. North Korea’s leadership has nothing to say on the issue, as you might expect, and no group has claimed responsibility for the outage. All we can do for now is wait and see what happens.