Internet access in North Korea suffered a mysterious outage for almost three hours on 6 April, only two days after the country's foreign bank, Daedong Credit, was implicated in the ongoing Panama Papers' revelations.
The exact source of this latest internet outage, the longest yet in 2016, remains unclear. Tracked in real-time by analysts at Dyn Research, they have since indicated that the downtime may have been intentional. "It could be some kind of technical failure, like a fibre cut or power outage that was just abrupt and out of nowhere. Or they could have just turned it off," Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Dyn Research told Vocativ. "It does make you wonder if it was a self-directed outage. In this case, it kind of came out of the blue. There was nothing to precede it [...] and it came back on at 1800 UTC or 2:00pm Eastern."
According to North Korea Tech, the outage is likely due to a technical fault though it is difficult to ascertain the exact reason. "It's likely due to a technical reason, such as the need to update software, reconfiguration of the network or perhaps the crash of some networking hardware. A power failure could also be to blame," the report said.
Interestingly, the news comes as the Pyongyang regime is officially clamping down on a slew of websites, such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, that were previously open to foreigners visiting the country. According to The Associated Press, it is estimated that more than two million North Koreans have access to mobile phones but, with a handful of exceptions, the internet is limited to high-level officials, elite universities or family members of the Kim dynasty.
The last major service outage in North Korea occurred in December 2014, after the massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures that was blamed on hackers aligned with Pyongyang. After the incident – which resulted in the loss of thousands of internal emails, personnel records and even full movies – the nation's internet was disrupted by a massive distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) and was offline for roughly two days.
Recent reports relating to North Korea expose how a British banker set up an offshore finance company in 2006, with the help of law firm Mossack Fonseca, called DCB Finance Limited. Allegedly used by the reclusive nation to help sell weapons and grow its nuclear programme, the operation was eventually shut down in 2010 and the banker in question, Nigel Cowie, has maintained the offshoot was only used for legitimate business.