Tuesday, December 23, 2014

North Korea's internet shutdown? So?

Whilst much of the media has parroted reports that the "DPRK's internet has been shut down", few actually specified the source for this, nor did they explain how meaningless this is without the explanation that 99.99% of the population has absolutely no internet access.

You see the DPRK's internet connection is restricted to a privileged subset of the ruling elite.   Virtually none of the DPRK's population outside Pyongyang and the Chinese border town of Sinuiju is even aware of the Internet.   A tiny proportion of the population has PCs, and the extent to which they are interconnected, it is through Kyangmyong - the local intranet which largely exists to distribute government material and approved content.  

So,  the consequences for almost everyone in the country are nil.  The consequences for a fraction of the ruling party and army elite are inconvenience.  

The authority for this is also not a DPRK source.  The Korean Central News Agency is a source for the news that the DPRK wants to present to the world, but domestically its content is quite different. Domestically, there is no awareness of the internet, although reports about Kyangmyong exist to demonstrate how technically adept the country is.  However, NKNews.Org has reported that there appears to have been a compromise of the country's external connections, although this isn't hard to do:

North Korea’s connection to the internet is relatively fragile, indicating that it would not take a particularly sophisticated attack to knock the DPRK offline.

“There’s nothing clearly evident which points to U.S. involvement … there has been talk amongst the [non-government-aligned] hacking classes of reprisals,” Frank Feinstein NK News chief technical officer said.

“This sort of thing could be pulled off by a collective or handful of individuals, rather than a state power very easily,” Feinstein added.

So a technically unsophisticated dictatorship with very few connections to the outside world,  for a system that serve the Kim family, and the top echelons of the party and military, was weakened.  

I've seen no reports noting that its brethren in the south, one of the world's most connected country's, could easily undertake such an attack.   

The real story is that the DPRK is under almost constant internet shutdown.  It is the world's least connected country, not due to poverty, but because of deliberate government policy.

Closing down its international connections, which it appears to have used to attack systems in other countries, and which are largely reserved to an elite that actively prevents the free speech and information it offers from reaching almost anyone else, is not a bad result.

The petulant man-child running the place, aping his sophisticated grand fraudster grandfather, is trying to flex his muscles to show to the military - the real source of power and threat to power - that he is up to the job.   Embarrassing a Japanese corporation in the USA over a film that pokes fun at him would have a been a top job for the Pyongyang hackers.  

In truth, he runs a country where he can't expose too many skilled young computer technicians to the technology that it can't easily access (due to sanctions) or the internet, or else they will find out a little too much about the lies told to them through school and the media - without rewarding them all very handsomely indeed, or keeping the under draconian control.

That's not a formula for building ICT capabilities to seriously take on south Korea or the USA, set aside companies that are weak in the computer security.   It should not be difficult to confine the child's ambitions.   China, on the other hand, is another story.


Jamie said...
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Anonymous said...

Wandered over most of your posts for the past year and didn't spot anything that looked like support for the protesters in Hong Kong. Likewise you don't appear at all concerned on the Chinese crack down on dissidents. There may have been a post I missed. Still hoping for a job in Hong Kong?

Libertyscott said...


1. I do support protests in favour of political freedom in Hong Kong and almost every year I express my support for political dissidents in China on the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident. I strongly support full civil and political freedoms for all of China, and oppose the incremental erosion of those in Hong Kong.

2. I have never applied for or sought a job or a visa to work in Hong Kong.

3. The post was on the DPRK, which has the world's worst human rights record bar none. Not even China imprisons entire families including infant children. for the political crimes of individuals

3. This year my father died and my mother was seriously ill for a while, pardon me if I didn't have the motivation to write about everything I was interested in all of the time between that and work. Believe it or not I don't actually exist for you or what you think I should write about. My initial reaction to your comment was much more brief.