As North Korean internet suffered massive outage yesterday, it is difficult not to wonder whether this is the ‘proportional response’ President Obama warned about. While, massive DDoS of DPKR’s network seems almost too blunt instrument, considering sophisticated capabilities of targeted operations available to NSA, it would be appropriate as a “warning shot” – showing how easily (in matter of less than week) whole Korean internet infrastructure can be disabled. It has to be noted though that officially American administration ruled out possibility of demonstration strike. Regarding if North Korea is really source of the attacks, jury is still out. According to FBI, evidence strongly backs this theory, however some researchers, including Bruce Schneier, remains unconvinced. Those opinions however, often does not fully embrace the fact that FBI press release may purposefully present very general overview of evidence gathered, in order to not give heads up to actual attacker.
Until more informations will be available two issues may already discussed – to some degree who could be responsible for Korea’s internet outage and whether it is proper to engage in cyberwar over attack on corporation.
Regarding first question, recent write-up about state of DPKR‘s internet access and hosts identified reveals interesting state of DPRK’s network and perhaps potential attractive targeted attack for hackers. Legal status of such activities also remains in grey area – it is hard to judge whether authorities would decide to prosecute someone trying to breach into North Korean network, even if strictly speaking most provisions included in criminal codes does not differentiate between targets of breach. Also given possibility that Sony attacks originated from Korea, countries might not want to have leading back to them. Revealed IP address include even login page for Cisco router (http://188.8.131.52/) – possibly tempting target for anyone curious. However, scale of the outage suggests rather organised effort and no hacker group yet claimed responsibility. Interesting theory involves China intervention – perhaps escalation of affairs caused its involvement in order to prevent further embarrassment.