North Korea Cyber Atttack Blamed On U.S., But Was It China?

North Korea’s state news agency reported last Friday that the nation had fallen victim to a wave of cyber attacks which temporarily shut down internet access. Although the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s official news broadcast, did not state any specify what damage – if any – had occurred as a result of the temporary disconnection, it blamed the attack on the United States and South Korea. According to experts, however, tracking the source of the disruption could take months.

“It is nobody's secret that the U.S. and the South Korean puppet regime are massively bolstering up cyber forces in a bid to intensify the subversive activities and sabotages against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea," said the official KCNA report.

North Korea’s Bangkok-based internet service provider, Loxley Pacific Co., stated that the source of the attack remains unclear as the company further investigates what caused the issue. While internet service resumed on Friday, a majority of North Koreans were unaffected by the disruption as only a select group of citizens have internet connection to begin with.

This announcement was made amid a period of high tension among North Korea and its alleged attackers after Pyongyang interpreted a series of joint military drills with U.S. and South Korean forces as preparation for invasion. Shortly after, Pyongyang announced on Monday that the 60-year old armistice between North Korea and South Korea had been nullified along with threats of nuclear attacks on its southern neighbor.

In denouncing the U.S. and South Korea for the alleged attack, the KCNA said the two nations "are seriously mistaken if they think they can quell the DPRK's voices of justice through such base acts. The U.S. and its allies should be held wholly accountable for the ensuing consequences.”

Following the accusations, South Korea denied the allegations and the United States declined to comment.

While identifying the source of the attack will take months, experts state that the attack was more likely to have been made by individual Chinese hackers as China has more access to North Korea’s cyberspace and computer software than the United States and South Korea.

“There are many Chinese Internet users who have expressed their hatred of North Korea these days. I think it’s more likely that some of them launched cyber attacks on North Korean websites,” said Lim Jong-in, dean of Korea University’s Graduate School of Information Security in Seoul. “Many in China know much more about North Korea’s IT environments.”

As North Korea’s only major ally, China had urged North Korea against conducting its third nuclear test in February as it would only raise tension in the international community and further isolate Pyongyang. North Korea responded by ignoring these warnings and conducting the tests which resulted in a wave of sanctions imposed by the United Nations in which China had supported. 

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Jimmy Tang

Jimmy Tang is a graduate of the American University's School of International Service in Washington, D.C. Currently based in Los Angeles, Jimmy's interests include covering US-Asia relations, Congressional affairs, and institutions of international development.

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