Sony Hack: North Korea Internet Service Restored After Outage (Report)

Pyongyang North Korea - H 2014
AP Images

Pyongyang North Korea - H 2014

Experts said the disruption could be due to anything from a cyber attack to a power failure

Key North Korean websites were back online Tuesday after a nine-and-a-half hour outage, according to reports and a tweet from Internet security firm Dyn Research.

The disruption occurred in the wake of President Barack Obama vowing to respond to a cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which the U.S. government has said North Korea was responsible for. Still, although there was suspicion that the outage may have been a U.S. response to the Sony hack, several U.S. officials close to the hacking investigations told Reuters that the U.S. government had not taken any cyber action against Pyongyang.

Experts told the Associated Press and Reuters that the shutdown could be due to anything from a cyber attack to a power failure.

Even if the disruption was due to a cyber attack, the measure would have been largely symbolic, since only a small number of people in North Korea are able to access the Internet, including members of the local elite and foreigners, the AP reported, noting that the outage was probably more inconvenient to the latter group, who can access the Internet through 3G networks.

Furthermore, the CEO of Internet security service CloudFlare, Matthew Prince, told Reuters the fact that North Korea's Internet was back up, "is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn't caused by a state-sponsored attack, otherwise it'd likely still be down for the count."

Nearly all of North Korea's Internet links and traffic pass through China. It dismissed any suggestion it was involved in the outage as "irresponsible," Reuters reported.

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North Korea did not immediately release a response to the shutdown, but state media was filled with denunciations of the U.S., the AP reported.

On Monday, as the disruption was occurring, Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research, told Bloomberg News, "I don’t know that someone is launching a cyber attack against North Korea, but this isn’t normal for them. Usually they are up solid. It is kind of out of the ordinary. This is not like anything I’ve seen before."

On Friday, the president had pledged an unspecified response to the Sony cyberattack.

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"They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond," Obama stated at a press conference. "We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose. It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference."

In a briefing with reporters on Monday, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf did not deny that the U.S. was behind the Internet outage in North Korea, according to The Blaze. “As we implement our responses, some will be seen, some may not be seen,” she said.

She also suggested that North Korea compensate Sony Pictures for damages.

“The government of North Korea has a long history of denying responsibility for destructive and provocative actions, and if they want to help here, they could admit their culpability and compensate Sony for the damages that they caused,” Harf said.

Dec. 23, 6:16 a.m. This story has been updated to reflect the fact that Internet service in North Korea has been restored.