A state-sponsored Russian company is providing internet for North Korea and cybersecurity experts are worried – Business Insider
Internet analysts began noticing routing databases pick up
TransTeleCom-provided connections for North Korea around 5:30
p.m. local time on Sunday,
The Washington Post reported. Analysts say the new connection
is handling around 60% of the country’s internet traffic,
according to Reuters.
TransTeleCom would not confirm any routing deal with North
Korea, Reuters said, only acknowledging that it “has historically
had a junction of trunk networks with North Korea under an
agreement with Korea Posts and Telecommunications Corp signed in
2009,” a company statement read.
Although the deal may seem like an enlightening step
for a nation that typically bars its citizens from accessing
outside information, the internet connection isn’t the country’s
only link to the outside world. China Unicom, a state-sponsored
Chinese telecommunications company, has been providing the
internet in North Korea for seven years — the content is heavily
censored by the government and access is generally limited.
Like many of North Korea’s technological developments, the
additional internet connection may come with significant risks
for the rest of the international community. Cybersecurity
experts worry that the additional connection could be used for
future North Korean cyberattacks, or become a defensive
barrier to such attacks launched from countries North Korea
considers hostile, including the US and neighboring South Korea.
“In practical terms, [having multiple connections] will allow
additional resiliency if one of those connections were to be
rendered inactive for any number of reasons,” Doug Madory,
director of internet analysis at Oracle Dyn, told The Post.
“Relying on one internet provider has always left North Korea in
a precarious situation,” Martyn Williams, an expert on North
Korean information technology, said in a 38 North report. “More
than once the link has been the target of denial-of-service
“Most were claimed by the ‘Anonymous’ hacking collective, but on
at least one previous occasion, many wondered if US intelligence
services had carried out the action,” Martyn Williams continued.
The North Korean regime has good reason to implement a fail-safe
for its internet. US Cyber Command, the US’s combatant command
that deals with cyberspace operations, reportedly performed a
denial-of-service attack on the Reconnaissance General Bureau —
North Korea’s military spy agency — and disrupted the country’s
internet. The operation ended on Saturday, before TransTeleCom’s
internet went online, The Post reported.
“What I can tell you is that North Korea has itself been guilty
of cyberattacks, and we are going to take appropriate measures to
defend our networks and systems,” an anonymous senior official
told The Post.
North Korea’s internet was also shut down during
President Barack Obama’s second term in 2014, a few
days after Obama indicated that a “proportional response” was
warranted after evidence mounted of the regime’s involvement in
the major Sony Pictures Entertainment hack.