North Korean websites under attack

Online activists Anonymous are claiming responsibility for hacking of websites and social network accounts

After making Irish headlines this week for their anti-Scientology protest at the premiere of Tom Cruise’s Oblivion premiere in Dublin, the loosely-organised ‘hacktivist’ group Anonymous are in the news again for reportedly waging a hacking campaign against North Korean websites.

The Uriminzokkiri website – a North Korean news and propaganda source – was taken down by an attack from hackers, who also claim to have gained access to 15,000 usernames and passwords from the site. The hackers also posted messages on Uriminzokkiri social media feeds, including their flickr and twitter accounts. While the site is accessible again, the twitter account was, as of Friday morning, still displaying messages from the hackers.

The website of Air Koryo, the state-owned North Korean airline, was also brought down by a suspected DDoS (distributed denial of service) attack. At the time of writing, the site remains offline. The airline only introduced its online booking service in October 2012. The majority of Air Koryo’s fleet remains banned from EU territories, with only two of their planes having been granted permission to enter European airspace.

Individuals using the Anonymous label have claimed responsibility for the cyber attack. The collective posted a statement proclaiming “this is not about country vs country – This is about we, the people, the 99% (of USA and of North Korea) vs oppressing and violent regimes (like USA gov. and N.K. gov).” It also addressed North Korean citizen directly, saying “we are holding your back and your hand, while you take the journey to freedom, democracy and peace. You are not alone.”

North Korean internet

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s ‘Internet’ operates very differently to the way it does in most other countries. Of those with easy access to computers, a vast majority can only use Kwangmyong: a network many have likened to a walled-off ‘Intranet’. The service is mostly accessed through a linux-based operating system called ‘Red Star’ and the Firefox web browser. As well as providing an email client and internal web search service, As well as dedicated internal news and propaganda sources, Kwangmyong offers access to some external sites that have been filtered and passed by censors.

Only a couple of thousand Government officials and Government authorised citizens are able to access the full World Wide Web. Although mobile Internet access was opened up to foreign journalists and tourists in early 2013, the service was shut down after only a month in operation.

For these reasons, analysts have told The Washington Post that they are struggling to verify Anonymous’ hacking claims “since the network is insulated from the outside world and not accessible outside the country.”

Anonymous campagins

The Anonymous movement originated on ‘anonymous’ message boards such as 4chan. Due to the secretive nature of the predominantly online group, it is almost impossible to effectively measure the true scale and scope of the membership, as effectively anyone can use the Anonymous name. However, groups claiming affiliation with Anonymous have previously launched cyber-attacks on both Israeli and Syrian government websites, as well as UK and US organisations.

The members, often donning the iconic Guy Fawkes mask repopularised by the  V for Vendetta graphic novel and film, have also held protests against Scientology as part of their Project Chanology campaign. Individuals opposed to Scientology protested outside the Savoy on Wednesday night, with the group aiming to “encourage Mr Tom Cruise, the public face of the destructive ‘Church’, to build up the courage to leave”.


About Author