Russia, China providing North Korea with Internet access – Forward Observer Shop

Russia, China providing North Korea with Internet access

At a time when U.S. Cyber Command is targeting North Korean government-allied hackers, Russia and China have stepped up to provide Pyongyang with Internet access.

China has, for some time, provided the North Korean government with Internet access. But in light of the U.S. cyber attack efforts, Russia has also stepped into the fold and is now providing the North with additional Internet access.

A major Russian telecommunications company appears to have begun providing an Internet connection to North Korea. The new link supplements one from China and will provide back-up to Pyongyang at a time the US government is reportedly attacking its Internet infrastructure and pressuring China to end all business with North Korea.

The connection, from TransTeleCom, began appearing in Internet routing databases at 09:08 UTC on Sunday, or around 17:38 Pyongyang time on Sunday evening. Internet routing databases map the thousands of connections between telecom providers and enable computers to figure out the best route to a destination.

Until now, Internet users in North Korea and those outside accessing North Korean websites were all funneled along the same route connecting North Korean ISP Star JV and the global Internet: A China Unicom link that has been in operation since 2010.

“The addition of Russian transit would create new internet path out of the country, increasing its resilience and international bandwidth capacity,” said Doug Madory, who analyzes global Internet connectivity at Dyn Research.

As noted, the new link comes at an interesting time — following a Washington Post report over the weekend detailing the Trump administration’s cyber efforts against the North.

Analyst comment: Foreign intelligence agents continually monitor U.S. press outlets, so it’s entirely reasonable to conclude had the Post not published sensitive classified information that was obviously leaked illegally, the Russians would not have been tipped off and motivated to provide Internet backup to Pyongyang. It’s not surprising that Moscow did so, mind you, but perhaps they would not have known to do so otherwise. 

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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