North Korea Goes Dark

A friend of mine who visited Pyongyang back in the 1990s said the weirdest part of his weird sojourn there involved the city’s tenuous power grid, which meant that before you headed anywhere–even down your hotel hallway–at night you better know where you were going.

In a more contemporary sense, North Korea just went dark today, per a report from the New York Times‘ Perlroth and Sanger:

North Korea’s already tenuous links to the Internet went completely dark on Monday after days of instability, in what Internet monitors described as one of the worst North Korean network failures in years.

The loss of service came just days after President Obama pledged that the United States would launch a “proportional response” to the recent attacks on Sony Pictures, which government officials have linked to North Korea. While an attack on North Korea’s networks was suspected, there was no definitive evidence of it.

Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, an Internet performance management company, said that North Korean Internet access first became unstable late Friday. The situation worsened over the weekend, and by Monday, North Korea’s Internet was completely offline.

“Their networks are under duress,” Mr. Madory said. “This is consistent with a DDoS attack on their routers,” he said, referring to a distributed denial of service attack, in which attackers flood a network with traffic until it collapses under the load.

Can you imagine a whole country being severed from the internet? Maybe, but we are talking about the most self-isolated nation in the world:

North Korea does very little commercial or government business over the Internet. The country officially has 1,024 Internet protocol addresses, though the actual number may be somewhat higher. By comparison, the United States has billions of addresses…..

The loss of service is not likely to affect the vast majority of North Koreans, who have no access to the Internet. The biggest impact would be felt by the country’s elite, state-run media channels and its propagandists, as well as its cadre of cyberwarriors.

So if nothing else, the attack will make coordination of any cyber-attack or counter-attack by North Korea a might tricky I assume the U.S. government will remain silent about it, and let Pyongyang assume whatever they wish about what happens if you go after–or even give reason to suspect you’ve gone after–a major American company.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.