The news: Just four days after President Barack Obama promised a "proportional response" to the massive hacking operation that brought Sony Pictures to its knees, the entire country of North Korea has dropped off the Web.
Essentially, North Korea now has no Internet at all. According to the New York Times, North Korean connections began experiencing instability late on Friday, and by Monday digital analysts concluded the entire country was the victim of a massive distributed denial of service attack, leading to "one of the worst North Korean network failures in years."
At this point, it's not publicly confirmed who was behind the attack, but as the Wall Street Journal's Brian Fitzgerald notes, it's basically three options: 1) North Korea disabled its own Internet, 2) China disabled the country's Internet or 3) This was the work of a hacker or outside actor. And that's where the U.S. comes in.
The timing is pretty suspicious: Though North Korea and some security experts have contested U.S. accusations that Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un ordered the Sony hack, American officials have publicly blamed his government for orchestrating it. They've also made it crystal clear that they intended to retaliate.
"We aren't going to discuss, you know, publicly operational details about the possible response options or comment on those kind of reports in anyway except to say that as we implement our responses," State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told the media. "Some will be seen, some may not be seen."
Per Mediaite, Internet security expert Doug Madory explains that the outage is severe and sustained enough that it's unlikely the result of a glitch.
The most likely scenario is that the U.S. is either using its considerable cyber warfare capabilities to attack North Korea, or it has pressured China into doing it. China may very well be doing America's dirty work, especially given the country's increasing frustration with Kim's recalcitrant government. A cyber-attack might be just the kind of thing that translates that frustration into a warning sign.
Easy pickings: To add more credence to this theory, the fact of the matter is that the U.S. would barely have to kick the door in. As the New York Times reports, North Korea officially only has 1,024 I.P. addresses, while the U.S. has billions. While North Korea may have up to 3,000 full-time hackers, they reportedly operate out of a China-based hotel and other secret locations. America's cyber-warfare budget is in the billions and rapidly increasing.
Some groups linked to the Anonymous collective have also taken credit; if they are behind it, that would be both frightening and hilarious. Imagine some North Korean military officer screaming with rage while a neckbeard in a Guy Fawkes mask munches Doritos half a world away. For now, we'll go with the U.S. government explanation.
Of course, it's also entirely possibly North Korea just chose the wrong service provider.
The bottom line is that the country's Internet is totally screwed. Taking pleasure in the nation's pain might be a tad bit malevolent, but you might as well take the time to enjoy this supercut of North Korean-approved movie trailers. Kim sure can't.