Internet Problems in North Korea: Related to The Interview?

One of the biggest international news stories of the past week has been the ongoing saga of Sony’s internet troubles, reportedly due to the anger over the company’s new movie The Interview. The movie features James Franco and Seth Rogen and features an interview crew sent into North Korea, where they successfully assassinate Kim Jong Un. The film was set to release on December 17, but after threats of violence against any theater showing the film and cyber attacks against Sony, it was temporarily halted. The FBI has stated that the cyber attacks originated in North Korea, and President Barack Obama stated that the US would respond.

Late on Friday, December 19, the internet connectivity in North Korea began to get slower and more glitchy. This continued until Monday when the internet when completely out. By 5:00 Eastern Time the internet had begin showing signs of returning, but the country still remained largely in the dark. Some have begun blaming the United States for this internet blackout, including some North Korean government officials, but others claim that the attack was too unsophisticated to have originated at the higher levels of United States espionage.

The connectivity blackout looks to have been caused by a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack, one of the most common attacks for knocking servers out of commission. These attacks occur when hackers flood a network with traffic until it collapses. They are a common tool of “hacktivists,” groups who use relatively unsophisticated cyber attacks to shut down or disrupt internet in a country or among a group of individuals. They were recently used during the Ukraine conflicts and the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The flickering of the internet that took place beginning Friday and throughout the weekend seem to indicate that the attack was unsophisticated. Even a weak DDOS attack would knock out North Korea’s internet, and that was not achieved until Monday. North Korea’s connection to the worldwide web is incredibly limited, with only 1,024 internet protocol addresses in the country. So while the US may still respond to the attack on Sony, this was probably not that attempt.

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