An American hacker ‘in his pajamas’ has taken down North Korea’s internet in revenge for a cyberattack carried out against him by Pyongyang. The hacker, who has been named only as P4x, launched repeated ‘distributed denial of service’ (DDoS) attacks against the communist state, crippling the country’s few government-operated public-access websites and slowing email traffic.
DDoS attacks flood a system with fake traffic, consuming available bandwidth and limiting the processing capacity of servers so that a website becomes unavailable. In the current isolationist state of North Korea, just a small number of trusted officials and academics are permitted to use the World Wide Web (WWW). At the same time, a slight number of North Korean websites are connected to the wider global internet. These sitesinclude state airline Air Koryo; and Naenara – the official web portal of the North Korean government, which spreads state news and propaganda on behalf of the Communist Party, headed by Kim Jong UN himself.
Over the last two weeks, these websites have come under a sustained attack from P4x, even tricking observers of North Korean activity into believing the country was facing cyberattacks from a Western power. Experts suspected the hacks were being done in response to a recent spate of missile tests that have been carried out by Pyongyang, of which there have been six in recent weeks, raising alarm bells in the region and drawing condemnation. However, according to Wired Magazine, the DDoS attacks were not the work of the intelligence agencies of any of the world’s big players. Instead, ‘one American man in a T-shirt, pajama pants and slippers, sitting in his living room night after night, watching Alien movies and eating spicy corn snacks,’ was responsible wrote the magazine, ‘periodically walking over to his home office to check on the progress of the programs he was running to disrupt the internet of an entire country.’ While an increasing number of North Korean citizens have been given access to a domestic ‘intranet’ of websites closed off from the rest of the WWW, the country is otherwise one of the world’s least digitally connected countries. P4x told Wired he was able to exploit vulnerabilities in North Korea’s out-of-date operating systems, and launch his attacks from the comfort of his own home. “It felt like the right thing to do here. If they don’t see we have teeth, it’s just going to keep coming,” he told the publication, “I want them to understand that if you come at us, it means some of your infrastructure is going down for a while.” He explained that his cyber attacks on the state came after he himself was unsuccessfully targeted by Pyongyang, with DPK hackers attempting to break into his own personal network a year ago to get access to his hacking technology. He was able to catch the breach, open the file the hackers used in an attempt to gain access to his network with a virtual computer (thus isolating the breach), and was able to study it.
. He found the hack had been launched, to his surprise, from North Korea. He added that he reported the incident to American authorities such as the FBI, but was ignored. “If no one’s going to help me, I’m going to help myself,” he said.