Fast pipe from Vladivostok gives N. Korea more Internet in face of US cyber operations.
As the US reportedly conducts a denial-of-service attack against North Korea’s access to the Internet, the regime of Kim Jong Un has gained another connection to help a select few North Koreans stay connected to the wider world—thanks to a Russian telecommunications provider. Despite UN sanctions and US unilateral moves to punish companies that do business with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 38 North’s Martyn Williams reports that Russian telecommunications provider TransTelekom (ТрансТелеКо́m) began routing North Korean Internet traffic at 5:30pm Pyongyang time on Sunday.
The connection, Williams reported, offers a second route for traffic from North Korea’s Byol (“Star”) Internet service provider, which also runs North Korea’s cellular phone network. Byol offers foreigners in North Korea 1Mbps Internet access for €600 (US$660) a month (with no data caps).
Up until now, all Byol’s traffic passed through a single link provided by China Unicom. But the new connection uses a telecommunications cable link that passes over the Friendship Bridge railway bridge—the only connection between North Korea and Russia. According to Dyn Research data, the new connection is now providing more than half of the route requests to North Korea’s networks. TransTelekom (sometimes spelled TransTeleComm) is owned by Russia’s railroad operator, Russian Railways.
According to a Washington Post report, The Department of Defense’s US Cyber Command had specifically targeted North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau—the country’s primary intelligence agency—with a denial-of-service attack against the organization’s network infrastructure. That attack was supposed to end on Saturday, according to a White House official who spoke with the Post.
While the unnamed official said the attack specifically targeted North Korea’s own hacking operations, North Korea has previously run those operations from outside its borders—from China. So it’s not clear whether the attack would have had any impact on ongoing North Korean cyberespionage operations.