North Korea websites back online following internet shutdown after US promises action for Sony hack

White House and the State Department declines to say whether the US government was responsible

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The Independent Online

Propagandistic parts of the North Korean web have been restored following an unprecedented nine-hour internet blackout about which the US government has declined to comment.

South Korean officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said the North's official Korean Central News Agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, which are the main channels for official North Korea news, had earlier been down.

On Tuesday, after nine and a half hours in the proverbial dark, these sites were restored, and the few North Koreans with internet access were once again able to browse Kim Jong-Un's visit to a catfish farm.

The FBI holds North Korea responsible for a recent high-profile hack of Sony pictures that succeeded in preventing the release of 'The Interview', a comedy film that depicts the assassination of the country's despotic leader Kim Jong-Un.

President Barack Obama said the US government expected to respond to North Korea's expensive act of "cyber vandalism".

Pyongyang has said it is not behind the Sony hack, nor the terrorism threat that broke the camel's back, it called it a "righteous deed" —  and has since said it may attack the White House for supposedly being involved in the controversial movie.

The timing of the internet blackout has led to speculation that the United States had caused it; the White House and the State Department declined to comment.

US computer experts described the internet outages in the North as sweeping and progressively worse. Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn Research, an Internet performance company, said in an online post that the North came back online after a nine-hour outage.

Possible causes for the shutdown include an external attack on its fragile network or even just power problems, Cowie wrote. But, he added, “We can only guess.”

Last year, North Korea suffered similar brief internet shutdowns of websites at a time of nuclear tensions with the US, South Korea and other countries. North Korea blamed Seoul and Washington for the outages.

US options for acting against North Korea are limited. The country already faces massive international and US sanctions over its repeated nuclear and rocket tests.

The hack has been a nightmare for Sony, which canceled plans to release the movie after a group of hackers made threats against theaters that planned to show it.

Although North Korea is equipped for broadband internet, only a small, approved segment of the population has any access to the world wide web. Few North Koreans have access to computers; those who do are typically able to connect only to a domestic Intranet.

More than a million people use mobile phones in North Korea. The network covers most major cities, but users cannot call outside the country or receive calls from outside. The North's intranet gives access to government-sanctioned sites and works with its own browsers, search engine and email programs, according to South Korea's Unification Ministry.

Additional reporting by AP