North Korean Internet access goes offline

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WASHINGTON — North Korea’s access to the Internet has been hit with outages and is offline today, according to a network-monitoring company, days after the U.S. government accused the country of hacking into Sony Corp.’s files.

North Korea, which has four official networks connecting the country to the Internet — all of which route through China — began experiencing intermittent problems Sunday and Monday went completely black, according to Doug Madory, director of Internet analysis at Dyn Research in Hanover, New Hampshire.

President Barack Obama said last week that Sony Pictures Entertainment had suffered significant damage and vowed to respond. North Korea warned Sunday that any U.S. punishment over the hacking attack on would lead to a retaliation “thousands of times greater.” North Korea has said it doesn’t know the identity of the hackers — who call themselves “‘Guardians of Peace” — claiming responsibility for breaking into Sony’s computer network and divulging internal email messages.

”The situation now is they are totally offline,” Madory said. ”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.”

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The attack on Sony’s computers exposed Hollywood secrets, destroyed data and caused the studio to cancel the release of “The Interview,” a comedy about a fictional assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The hackers rendered thousands of computers inoperable and forced Sony to take its entire computer network offline.

The outage probably isn’t a cut of a fiber-optic cable, which would be shown in an immediate loss of connectivity, and other possible explanations include a software meltdown on North Korea’s Web routers or denial-of-service hacking attacks, Madory said.

Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the State Department, told reporters in Washington Monday she can’t confirm reports of cyber-attacks on North Korea and won’t say what steps the U.S. may take in response to the Sony attack.

“We are considering a range of options in response,” Harf said at a State Department briefing. “Some will be seen. Some may not be seen.”

While North Korea has four networks connected to the Internet, the U.S. has more than 152,000 such networks, according to Dyn Research.

“We have no new information regarding North Korea today,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan wrote in an email Monday. “If in fact North Korea’s Internet has gone down, we’d refer you to that government for comment.”

China has started an investigation into a possible North Korean role in the Sony hacking following a request from the U.S. government, a person with direct knowledge of the matter has said. The foreign ministry will cooperate with other Chinese agencies including the Cyberspace Administration to conduct a preliminary investigation, said the person, who asked not to be identified because the probe hasn’t been made public.

North Korea’s Internet outage was earlier reported by the North Korea Tech blog.

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