North Korea has regained partial Internet access, following a widespread outage that occurred days after the U.S. vowed to respond to a cyberattack on Sony that was blamed on Pyongyang.
The Korean Central News Agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper were back online Tuesday after earlier being inaccessible. It was unclear whether wider Internet service in the North has been restored to its previous levels.
The reason for the massive outage is not yet clear, but it comes just days after President Barack Obama warned the U.S. would retaliate against the North. A State Department spokeswoman, when asked about the situation, declined comment.
However, she did say the U.S. government is discussing a range of options in response to the Sony hacking, some of which, she said, will be “seen” and some that “may not be seen.”
Doug Madory, a spokesman for the U.S.-based Internet analysis firm Dyn Research, said the Internet problems in North Korea could be the result of an attack.
Earlier, North Korea had called on the United States to apologize for implicating Pyongyang in the hacking of Sony Pictures and threatened to fight back in a variety of ways, including cyberwarfare.
The National Defense Commission for Pyongyang said in state media late Sunday that the U.S. government was wrong to blame North Korea for the hacking. It also said the claims are groundless.
Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Ministry said it does not have enough information to determine whether reports that North Korea used Chinese facilities to stage a cyberattack on Sony Pictures are true.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said Monday China is “opposed to all forms of cyberattacks” and would not reach any conclusions without having “enough facts.”
However, Hua said China is opposed to attacks on a third party “through making use of the facilities of another country” and is ready to have a “dialogue with other countries.”
The United States is in talks with China to possibly help block cyberattacks from Pyongyang.
The request could be problematical because Washington has long said Chinese cyber theft has threatened U.S. defense secrets, hurt American companies’ competitiveness and cost American workers jobs.
President Barack Obama said the United States is reviewing whether to put North Korea back onto its lists of state sponsors of terrorism following the cyberattack on Sony Pictures, which U.S. officials blame on Pyongyang.
Speaking on CNN’s State of the Nation, Obama said he did not consider the hack an act of war, but a very costly, very expensive example of cyber vandalism.
Japan is also condemning the recent hacking attack. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday Japan is maintaining close contact with Washington on the matter.
A member of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, Democrat Brad Sherman of California, is calling on his colleagues to double the budget for Voice of America and Radio Free Asia’s Korean broadcasts, in response to what he calls “vandalism and threats of violence to suppress speech in the United States.” VOA and RFA broadcast 11 hours of news and information programming in Korean daily. Sherman says that should be increased to 24 hours per day.
National security issue
Suga said cyberattacks also pose a serious problem to the national security of Japan.
“Regarding this case, our nation is coordinating closely with the United States and we support the measures taken by the United States in this regard. Cyberattacks are a serious problem related to the national security of our nation also, and we strongly criticize the hacking that took place,” Suga said.
North Korea denies it was responsible for hacking Sony Pictures’ computer network and posting embarrassing e-mails and other private data.
The hackers call themselves the Guardians of Peace and warned there would be a “bitter fate” for anyone attending a public showing of the movie “The Interview,” a film in which the CIA hires two journalists to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Sony has canceled the scheduled December 25 release of the satirical comedy.
Launched a ‘counteraction’
On Sunday, North Korean state media reported the country’s Policy Department of the National Defense Commission issued a statement saying it is not aware of the country of residence of the hackers.
It said it has evidence the Obama administration was involved in the making of “The Interview” and warned that North Korea has already launched a “counteraction.”
Obama has criticized the film’s cancellation and warned such digital attacks are something the country will have to adapt to.
Pyongyang has said it can prove it was not involved in the attacks and has warned of “grave consequences” if Washington fails to accept the invitation for a joint investigation.
The United States has rejected the offer.
Sony Pictures chairman Michael Lynton told reporters Friday that the studio had no choice but to cancel the film’s release because American theaters were unwilling to show it.
Lynton did, however, tell interviewers that Sony did not give in to the hackers, and is trying to find some format for people to view the film, possibly through a video-on-demand service or over the Internet.
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