U.S. Asks China to Cut Off North Korea's Internet

In response to the Sony hack, the Obama administration asks China to block Internet access to North Korea.

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Complex Original

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Yesterday, President Barack Obama said at a press conference that the U.S. would be taking steps to instigate a "proportional response" to North Korea for their confirmed cyberattack on Sony. Since American proportions are wider than most, they're trying to respond by blocking off all Internet access to North Korea.

The problem with that approach is that North Korea is so isolated. North Korea is an island, at least when it comes to Internet access. They receive their Internet via telecommunication routers that are based in China, not within North Korea itself. And even if China agreed to assist, very few North Koreans (only the military and the "elite") have been blessed with Internet access. So few have access, that according to The Daily Beast, when North Korea wants some hacking done, they send them to North Korean-owned Chinese hotels to do their nefarious deeds.

Still, according to the New York Times, the Obama administration would like to send a message to the world about hacking. “What we are looking for is a blocking action, something that would cripple their efforts to carry out attacks,” one official said to the Times

In the past, other countries have flooded the systems of networks until they collapsed from over-activity,  but that has only worked in areas that are connected to the global Internet. North Korea has a separate network infrastructure. And most of their cyber attacks already occur outside North Korea and within Chinese borders. Oren Falkowitz, a former analyst at the National Security Agency who now runs Area 1, a security company based in California told the Times that such an attack on North Korea would be a minor annoyance that he likens to “ankle biting.”

The U.S. has mapped an informational route of the attacks on Sony via the route of China, to Singapore, to Thailand, and Bolivia. The other countries have also been contacted to assist in blocking North Korea's hacking route. But even if those other counties accept, the key to blocking Internet to North Korea would be China. And the U.S. and China have been bickering about establishing a "rules of the road" for acceptable behavior in cyberspace for more than a year. However, those roadmap attempts have stalled between the countries after the U.S. brought charges against five individuals in the Chinese People's Liberation Army for hacking into American steel and power company networks.

Still, Obama wants to see if China is open to some proportional ankle biting.

[via The New York Times]


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