Arik Hesseldahl

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Renesys Confirms Network Outages — Maybe Attacks — In North Korea

North-Korea-flagThere has been a rash of odd reports today about a hacking attack against networks in North Korea. Just a few minutes ago, the research firm Renesys, which tracks the overall health and working order of the Internet, came out with confirmation that indeed something has been going on.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea — or DPRK, as North Korea is generally known — has officially accused the U.S. of carrying out the attack, which is said to have disrupted that country’s connectivity to the wider Internet, such as it is.

The DPRK has only one Internet provider supplying it with outside links, known as Star JV, Renesys says. Star in turn gets service from China Unicom and Intelsat. Star JV is a joint venture between North Korea’s Post and Telecommunications Corporation and a Thailand-based firm called Loxley Pacific.

Renesys says it tracked disruptions that knocked North Korea’s four networks — yes, there are only four — off the global routing table early on March 13. The disruptions recurred into March 14.

It’s as yet unknown what the cause is, and frankly it’s kind of hard to figure out what the point of such an attack might be other than simply to get attention. It’s not as if much of North Korean society is all that dependent upon the Internet to get anything done, and those few who do have access are either elite members of the Communist Party or the inner circle of the regime of leader Kim Jong-Un, or foreigners. In fact, Foreign Policy, citing some educated guesses of foreigners, estimates the number of North Koreans with access to the Internet as ranging from perhaps a few dozen well-connected families to no more than 1,000 people, tops. For others, there’s a domestic Intranet that looks nothing like the Internet we’re accustomed to.

So if indeed there has been an attack, and if it was sponsored by someone acting on behalf of another government, the main question would have to be, “Why bother?”

With luck, more will be revealed about all this in the coming days.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald