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November 17, 2022

North Korea’s internet is down and experts suspect a cyberattack

North Korea has suffered an outage that has all the hallmarks of a cyberattack, say analysts.

By Claudia Glover

North Korea‘s internet is down and currently suffering its biggest outage since January, leading to speculation that it has once again been the victim of a cyberattack. 

North Korea suffers outage suspected by analysts to be due to a DDoS attack. (Photo by Alexander Khitrov/Shutterstock)

Cybersecurity researcher Junade Ali told Reuters today at least two waves of outages knocked the internet out over a time frame of two-and-a-half hours. The entire internet was unreachable at points, said Ali, who monitors a range of North Korean web and email servers. 

Outages began at Ministry of Foreign Affairs

“This isn’t like a single web server is being taken offline,” Ali said. “The network stress is so great their Domain Name System (DNS) servers have been taken and eventually the key routers allowing traffic in and out of the country entirely.

“From my experience and from what I’ve seen before from monitoring their networks, I’d be surprised if this wasn’t an attack.”

The apparent attack seems to have begun with North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its official government portal, Naenara. The outage then intensified to claim the rest of North Korea’s internet, including the Air Koryo national airline, Ali said. 

Internet access in North Korea is only for the privileged few, with less than one per cent of the population being allowed to connect. Most have access to smaller, internal “splinternets” that do not have access to the outside world. 

Mobile phone usage is increasing in North Korea, however, with up to seven million citizens using them daily. WiFi networks have expanded with this increase, however, most do not connect to global networks.  

North Korea’s internet went down earlier this year

North Korea’s internet was last knocked out by a DDoS attack in January, with the US and China both named as possible perpetrators.

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“The intermittent connection issues, coming in waves, alongside the complete router failure, indicate this may be a DDOS attack,” Ali told NK News at the time. “North Korea suffered a total internet outage.”

Issues with internet access come amid reports of North Korea launching a short-range ballistic missile earlier today, after its government promised to launch “fiercer military responses” to the US, which appears to be bolstering its security commitments to allies in South Korea and Japan. 

January’s cyberattack also coincided with missile activity, with Pyongyang having launched two test firings towards its East coast, a move which brought condemnation from South Korea and Japan.

Read more: North Korea – the most sophisticated bank robber around

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