Update: 3/28/2013 – 09:11EST – KCNA’s site is back online
WASHINGTON DC – The website of North Korea’s state news outlet Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) has mysteriously been taken offline, just one day after a number of South Korea based news websites focusing on North Korea were themselves the victims of hacking attempts.
Since early this morning visitors to KCNA’s .kp domain website (www.kcna.kp) have been presented with an alert that says, “Service Temporarily Unavailable”. Underneath the alert is a selection of unreadable machine code that could provide further clues to the exact nature of the outage.
“Service Temporarily Unavailable” warnings, otherwise known as 503 alerts, usually emerge when a server cannot connect with the application or website hosted on it. While sometimes a simple reboot of the server can correct the problem, in cases where malicious hacking has occurred the downtime can be substantially longer.
“While there could be an innocent explanation to the outage, the fact that the 503 alert has now lasted over ten hours suggests something serious has happened to the KCNA server infrastructure”, said NK NEWS server administrator Sergei Morgovy.
In recent days North Korea has been accused of involvement in cyber attacks on a number of defector run North Korea news websites including Daily NK and Free Radio North Korea. South Korean state news outlet Yonhap also reported yesterday that a computer network belonging to YTN broadcasting system was hacked too.
Just days before, North Korea was accused by several Seoul based media of being responsible for a series of serious attacks on mainstream South Korean broadcasters and financial websites. Although the attacks were initially suggested to have originated in China, evidence later pointed towards a South Korean source.
Indicative of the growing frequency of inter-Korean cyber issues, North Korea accused the U.S. of staging cyber attacks on its own network just under two weeks ago, after a number of websites hosted on its .kp domain mysteriously went offline.
“It is nobody’s secret that the US and the South Korean puppet regime are massively bolstering up cyber forces in a bid to intensify the subversive activities and sabotages against the DPRK,” KCNA said on March 15.
The flurry of website outages and hacking follows a sharp increase in tensions between the two Koreas. North Korea is unhappy with sanctions placed on it after its third nuclear test, while the United States and Republic of Korea are concerned by a dramtic increase in belligerent rhetoric from North Korea.
Both Pyongyang and Seoul have labelled each other’s rhetoric as ‘provocative’ in recent weeks, and their own military exercises as ‘defensive’. North Korea has declared the peace agreement that ended the Korean War to be “void”, and has threatened preemptive nuclear strikes on both Japan and the U.S.