North Korea Gains Internet Connection Through Russia

Security researchers at Dyn, which monitors international internet traffic flows, have discovered that North Korea has established a second internet connection with the outside world through Russia. The new avenue to reach the broader world via cyberspace was found on Sunday as the Russian telecommunications company TransTeleCom began routing North Korea traffic over its infrastructure. The only other route North Korean internet traffic has travelled is through China Unicom, which dates back to 2010. It now appears that some 60 percent of North Korea internet traffic is traveling through Russia, with the remaining 40 percent transmitting through China.

The Cipher Take:

While North Korea’s internet access is estimated to be limited to under 1,000 connections, the country has still been able to leverage them to conduct disruptive attacks, like the ones against Sony Pictures in November 2014 and numerous financial institutions around the world – including the SWIFT global financial messaging system. Diversifying their connections to the outside internet beyond Chinese infrastructure will improve North Korea’s ability to launch attacks externally without relying on the goodwill of its hesitant neighbor. China has become more critical of the Pyongyang’s bluster regarding its nuclear and ballistic missile programs that has led to an increased U.S. military presence in its backyard. Furthermore, the new avenues of connectivity provide resiliency against disruptive cyber operations aimed at North Korea’s own systems.

The revealed connection coincided with reports that U.S. Cyber Command has been carrying out denial of service attacks against the systems of North Korea’s primary intelligence agency, the Reconnaissance General Bureau, by flooding their servers with false traffic. But further connecting the country to the outside internet is a double-edged sword for the totalitarian regime. More connectivity means the U.S. and others can better access the systems North Korea relies on and penetrate their control over information with foreign media and influence operations. Over time, the isolated country could lose the asymmetric advantage it currently holds by not relying on high levels of connectivity.


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