North Korea’s internet problems aren’t getting much better. The nation’s internet was restored briefly this morning, only to go offline again. The duration of this blackout wasn’t as lengthy as the last, but with continued instability there’s no guarantee that North Korea won’t lose their connection again.
A company that tracks the health of the infrastructure underlying the internet, Dyn Research, broke the news of the latest connectivity failure in North Korea on Twitter. Dyn Research has been monitoring and reporting on North Korea’s access for past few days. The nation underwent 24 hours of “increasing instability” culminating in a complete blackout for nine hours on Monday. According to Dyn Research, North Korea’s connection problems are consistent with several situations, including external interference and internal problems such as power supply issues. Fiber-optic cable breakages and disconnection by North Korea’s upstream provider (China Unicom) are less likely scenarios as those problems are not generally associated with extended periods of instability prior to disconnection.
After North Korea’s service was re-established on Tuesday, it was just as quickly lost. After another blackout North Korea was back online, but Dyn Research notes that North Korea’s connectivity issues are persisting and their connection is spotty at best. It’s unclear what affect this lack of connectivity is having on the North Korean population as internet access is extremely limited. The population of North Korea is around 25 million people. New York City has a population of around 8 million. According to the New York Times, some city blocks in NYC have more internet protocol addresses than the entire country of North Korea. North Korea has 1,024 official addresses (actual number may be slightly higher), while the United States (population roughly 316 million) has billions. Some estimates have put the number of people with internet access (outside of military and government personnel) at less than 1,000.
Speculations abound as to who or what may be behind North Korea’s ongoing internet woes. The troubles North Korea are experiencing are coming hot on the heels of a cyber attack directed at Sony Pictures. Sony was set to release The Interview, a Seth Rogen comedy about assassinating North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un. North Korea was the primary suspect in the cybervandalism attack that hacked into Sony’s databases and made public unreleased movies; actors’ information including code names, social security numbers, and salaries; and executive salaries and emails. The White House had said that it considered the hack a matter of national security and planned a “proportional response,” but it’s not clear if the North Korean internet issues are due to inarticulate problems, a “response” from the U.S. government, or if separate factions are coming in to play.
The alleged North Korean cyberattack originally canned the release of the picture. Theaters feared a North Korean attack on their databases and caved to demands to cancel the premieres. The American people have not responded well to what they perceive as a “cave” to the cyberterrorism. Celebrities such as Ben Stiller and Newt Gingrich have expressed dismay and disgust at the studio and theater’s responses. Many small independent theaters have decried North Korea’s actions and vowed to air the film regardless of the threats. George R. R. Martin (of Game of Thrones fame) was one of the first indie theater owners to throw his hat into the ring.
North Korea, a country renowned for its horrific human rights violations, proclaimed to be mortally offended by the premise of a movie and started a cyberwar. Despite the prowess of its hackers, North Korea seems woefully unprepared for the battle it has started.