North korea faces internet outage days after Sony hack

North Korea’s Internet faces outage after U.S warned of a ‘proportionate response’

Reports indicate that North Korea’s shaky Internet infrastructure has been suffering from widespread and frequent outages this week starting Monday. As per the report published by the North Korea Tech, the reclusive country’s internet connectivity kept breaking by the hour and other reports indicated it to be a Denial of Service (DoS) attack against the reclusive country’s Internet service.

Could this be a response by the U.S against the Sony hack ? Or is another entity involved ?

Proportional Response

Early reports suggested this might have been a response by the US government against the “Sony Hack. ” It seems more than a mere coincidence that North Korea’s connection to the Internet was essentially inactive Monday just days after the U.S. said it would consider a “proportional response” to a massive hack attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment corporated network related to the release of the comedy flick “The Interview.” Barack Obama had mentioned about a proportional response to the hack in response to the hack attack.

After some time of these reports flying around, there came an official response by spokeswoman Marie Harf by the US State Department:

“As the president said, we are considering a range of options in response. We aren’t going to discuss publicly operational details about the possible response options or comment on those kind of reports in any way except to say that as we implement our responses, some will be seen, some may not be seen. So I can’t confirm those reports, but in general, that’s what the president has spoken to.”

The US did not officially accept, nor deny that they were behind the outage, as would be expected. Reports also indicate that North Korean internet infrastructure isn’t very state of the art and it is a distinct possibility that the outages may have been caused due to genuine infra related problems.

It should also be noted that North Korean technology is predominantly of Chinese make and all digital connections run through Chinese mainland, as such, a response of such magnitude would require the permission and active collaboration of the Chinese government.

The Obama administration asked the Chinese government to help block North Korea’s cyberwarfare capabilities during the weekend.  China though, has not replied back as of yet. Considering that the only people in the reclusive country allowed to even access the internet belong to the military junta and the Bureau 121, such a response by the US seems very plausible.

Anonymous link

Another theory going the rounds, is the involvement of hackers collective, Anonymous,  in the downing of Internet services.  This theory was fueled by the below mentioned tweet by @OpRIPNK.

Discounting the probability of China helping the US, the Anonymous angle seems quite plausible. On Friday, a separate Twitter account, rumoured to be affiliated with Anonymous, announced that a counterattack against North Korean hackers had begun.

“Operation RIP North Korea, engaged. #OpRIPNK,” tweeted the account known as @theanonmessage.

The timing of the two tweets is consistent with statistics tracked by the security research firm Arbor Networks, which found an uptick in denial-of-service attacks against North Korea beginning Thursday. That day, the company recorded two outages. The following day it saw four. And the attacks began peaking on Dec. 20 and 21, according to Arbor, with 5.97 gigabits of data flooding North Korea’s pipes every second.

On the other hand another Anonymous handle, @YourAnonNews tweeted distancing itself from @TheAnonMessage tweet.

Given the fact that how the hacker collective is organized or disorganised (the way you see it), it is still unclear if the hacktivist group is behind the attack.

From all the DDoS attacks tracked by Arbour, it is confirmed that 6 of them originated from within the United States. The attacks targeted a handful of Korean websites,  including Pyongyang’s official Web portal, Naenara, as well as an educational site belonging to Kim Il Sung University. The attackers also took aim at two servers that route Internet traffic to North Korean sites.

The attack does seem like an act Anonymous might carry out. A Paste, reportedly from Anonymous may hold the key.  This paste was put up on 19th Dec and is given below

Dear Mr. Michael Lynton (CEO of Sony Entertainment),

We shall first-off begin this message with an expression of sympathy as you have failed to release “The Interview” as you believe that hackers shall carry out a new operation to cause malicious damage within your organisation.

I would like to inform you that we all know the hacks didn’t come from North Korea (we think everybody knows about this already).

What we would like to say is that by not releasing “The Interview”, you are denying us the privilege of the Freedom Of Information Act (1966).

Unfortunately, due to your organisation panicking at first sight of trouble, we find this very cowardly of both yourself and your organisation (Sony Entertainment).

We know that Mr. Paulo Coelho has offered Sony Entertainment a sum of $100,000 for the rights of the movie; where he shall then be able to upload the movie onto BitTorrent.

Obviously, you shall not be responding to his generous offer – so please respond to ours with a public conference, we wish to offer you a deal…

Release “The Interview” as planned, or we shall carry out as many hacks as we are capable of to both Sony Entertainment, and yourself.

Obviously, this document was only created by a group of 25 – 30 Anons, but there are more of us on the internet than you can possibly imagine.

We are Anonymous,
We are Legion,
We do not forgive,
We do not forget,
Expect us.

But who really downed the Norks internet is a million dollar question, left open to conjecture!

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