Disappointed by the lack of reaction from the United States after being hacked by North Korea, this hacker decided to take revenge. He attacked the country’s infrastructure.
The most secretive country in the world, North Korea is currently facing serious connection problems. For two weeks, observers have noticed that almost all websites have been disconnected intermittently. Admittedly, the nation ruled with an iron fist by Kim Jong-un does not have a lot of sites, but the Air Koryo airline reservation site or an official government portal remained unavailable for several days.
Already one of the most isolated countries on the planet, North Korea was even more cut off from the rest of the world. The case comes as the country ramps up ballistic missile tests, suggesting a possible cyberattack by a foreign state. Yet the culprit behind these repeated Internet blackouts is not an agency or a state.
They are the work of an American sitting in his living room and known as P4x. This American hacker was himself hacked by North Korean spies. Just over a year ago, he fell victim to a massive North Korean-led hacking campaign that targeted Western security researchers. The goal? Get your hands on hacking tools and information on software vulnerabilities. If P4x claims to have prevented these pirates from stealing valuable data, it did not appreciate being targeted and the lack of reaction from the American government. However, he reveals that he was contacted by the FBI, without obtaining any real help from the agency.
Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, the hacker takes matters into his own hands
Asked by WIRED, he explains that he waited a year before responding. “I felt it was the right thing to do. If they don’t see that we’re showing our teeth, it’s going to continue.”, assures the hacker. And to add: “I want them to understand that if they take it out on us it means that part of their infrastructure is going to be down for a while”. To carry out these attacks, the hacker explains that he exploited a number of known and uncorrected flaws in North Korean systems. They allowed him to launch DoS (Denial of Service) attacks to bring down part of the Internet in North Korea.
Simple attacks for our hacker who automated most of the attempts against North Korean systems. He did not wish to make these vulnerabilities public and does not intend to put an end to his cyberattacks. As it stands, however, it is unclear whether these attacks have any real effect on the government. Only a tiny fraction of the population has access to the Internet, as researcher Martyn Williams explains.
A specialist in the matter, he recalls that most North Koreans are disconnected and are content with a closed intranet network. Nevertheless, it is rare to see a single hacker cause so many breakdowns and disrupt the propaganda messages disseminated by the regime.
Who attacked the American hacker P4x?
The other big question is who tried to hack this independent hacker. For Martyn Williams, most North Korean hackers are based in other countries such as China. “I would say that if he goes after these people, he’s probably directing his attention in the wrong direction. But if he just wants to annoy North Korea, then he’s probably inconvenient.”, he says. For its part, P4x confirms that it wanted to inconvenience the North Korean government and not the population.