North Korea’s internet access is down across the entire nation, in an apparent act of retribution against leader Kim Jong Un’s cyberattack against American movie studio Sony – but was the action taken by President Obama in an official capacity, or is this the work of vigilante hackers? The difference could be crucial, as the United States government attempts to decide how to react to Kim’s digital incursions.
The limited internet access of North Korean citizens to begin with means that the distributed denial of service attack is aimed squarely at disabling the access of Kim and his confidantes. Obama has stated that he would take proportional action against Kim in an appropriate manner and timeframe, and cutting off the nation’s internet would be an effective show of force. It could force Kim to acknowledge that America is capable of easily outmatching him on the hacking front, as well as a signal that any further cyberattacks could result in North Korea losing its internet access permanently.
But who’s behind it? Thus far scattered reports have pointed to the virtual disappearance of North Korea from the global world wide web, with no immediate clues as to who is responsible for the DDOS attack. If the Obama administration is responsible, it hasn’t yet publicly taken credit. That could come soon enough, though it would raise questions of legality and whether state sponsored hacking is an appropriate response to state sponsored hacking. It could be that Obama is indeed behind the attack, and has ensured that Kim is aware of as much, but will decline to take public credit.
On the other hand, it could be that vigilante hackers in the United States have simply decided to take matters into their own hands. The ease with which the DDOS attack has overloaded North Korea’s entire internet backbone suggests that Kim’s technology is so primitive that it was easily defeated. Is it possible that a gifted geek in his mother’s proverbial basement has really just taken out the knees of Kim Jong Un? Those answers should come soon, but for now the consequences being raised by the DDOS attack are fascinating.