North Korea’s internet temporarily knocked offline, researcher says

SEOUL, Nov 17 (Reuters) – North Korea’s internet was hit by its biggest outage in months on Thursday, a cyber security researcher told Reuters, after similar service outages in January were blamed on suspected cyber attacks.

Internet access is severely restricted in North Korea. It is not known how many people have direct access to the global Internet, but estimates suggest that the total number is a small fraction—well under 1%—of a population of about 25 million. Many others have access to internal networks that are not connected to the outside world.

At least two waves of outages in the isolated country hit the internet in about 2.5 hours, peaking with a surge in network strain that made the entire North Korean internet inaccessible, said Junade Ali, a British cyber security researcher who monitors various North Korean web networks. and email servers.

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“It’s not like one web server is taken offline,” he said, referring to surveillance recordings he shared with Reuters. “The stress on the network is so great that their Domain Name System (DNS) servers are down, and eventually the main routers that carry all the traffic in and out of the country.”

The website of North Korea’s foreign ministry and Naenara, the North Korean government’s official portal, apparently saw the severity of the potential attack before it became so large that the entire Internet was shut down, Ali said.

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Other major sites affected were national airline Air Koryo and major internal email servers.

Up to 7 million North Koreans use cellphones every day, and Wi-Fi networks have expanded rapidly in recent years as mobile devices increasingly become a key tool for market activity, even though most do not connect to global networks, US researchers said on Tuesday.

Like the alleged attacks in January, Thursday’s outages come amid increased missile launches and other military activity by the North that have drawn condemnation from the United States and its allies.

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North Korea fired a ballistic missile on Thursday, warning of “stronger military responses” to US efforts with allies to increase its security presence in the region, saying Washington was taking a “gamble it will regret”.

Researchers have said that such outages are indicative of what they call distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, in which hackers attempt to flood a network with abnormally high volumes of data traffic to paralyze it.

“From my experience and what I’ve seen before monitoring their networks, I would be surprised if it wasn’t an attack,” Ali said.

Reporting by Josh Smith Editing by Raissa Kasolowski

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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