North Korean websites back online after shutdown

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Back Online: North Korea Regains Internet Access

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - Key North Korean websites were back online Tuesday after a nearly 10-hour shutdown that followed a U.S. vow to respond to a crippling cyberattack on Sony Pictures that Washington blames on Pyongyang.

It wasn't immediately clear what caused the Internet stoppage in one of the least-wired and poorest countries in the world, but outside experts said it could be anything from a cyberattack to a simple power failure. The White House and the State Department declined to say whether the U.S. government was responsible.

Even if a cyberattack had caused the shutdown, analysts said, it would largely be symbolic since only a tiny number of North Koreans are allowed on the Internet - a fraction of Pyongyang's staunchly loyal elite, as well as foreigners.

Though it denies responsibility for the Sony hack, North Korea's government has called it a "righteous deed" and made clear its fury over Sony's film "The Interview," a comedy that depicts the assassination of the North's authoritarian leader, Kim Jong Un, the head of a 1.2 million-man army and the focus of an intense cult of personality.

South Korean officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of office rules, said the North's official Korean Central News Agency and the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, which are the main channels for official North Korean news, had both gone down. But the websites were back up later Tuesday. Among the posts glorifying the ruling Kim family included one about Kim Jong Un visiting a catfish farm.

U.S. computer experts described the Internet outage 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 9 ½-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."

The outage was probably more inconvenient to foreigners, who can access the Internet through 3G networks, than to North Korean residents, most of whom have never gone online. There are only about 1,000 Internet Protocol addresses in North Korea for a population of 25 million, South Korean analysts say. The privileged are also allowed to view a self-contained domestic Intranet that carries state media propaganda and a limited amount of information pulled and censored from the real Internet.

North Korea did not immediately release a response to the shutdown. But a commentary carried in state media Tuesday was filled with characteristic rhetoric, criticizing what it called a failed U.S. policy on Pyongyang and comparing the United States to the Roman Empire, which, it said, "was thrown into a dumping ground of history as it collapsed while seeking prosperity through aggression and war."

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

President Barack Obama has said the U.S. government expects to respond to the Sony hack, which he described as an expensive act of "cyber vandalism" by North Korea.

Obama did not discuss details, and it was not immediately clear whether the Internet connectivity problems represented the retribution. The U.S. government regards its offensive cyber operations as highly classified.

U.S. options for acting against North Korea are limited. Although some analysts believe there are more severe financial measures that can be taken by Washington, the country already faces massive international and U.S. sanctions over its repeated nuclear and rocket tests.

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

North Korea has promoted the development of science and technology as a means of improving its moribund economy.

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.

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North Korean websites back online after shutdown
In this image taken from video North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, salutes during a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the country's founding, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video)
In this image taken from video North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, salutes during a military parade marking the 65th anniversary of the country's founding, Monday, Sept. 9, 2013, in Pyongyang, North Korea. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
FILE - In this July 27, 2013 file photo, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un waves to spectators and participants of a mass military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea's young leader wasn't in his customary seat as the country convened its rubber-stamp parliament Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, adding to South Korean media speculation that Kim may be ill. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
Kim Jong Un flashes his computer skills for gathered North Korean officials. (KCNA/Reuters/Corbis)
ADDS WHERE KIM APPEARED - A man watches a TV news program at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un using a cane, reportedly during his first public appearance in five weeks in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim has made his first public appearance in five weeks, smiling broadly and supporting himself with a cane while touring the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District and another new institute in Pyongyang, state media reported Tuesday, ending an absence that drove a frenzy of global speculation that something was amiss with the country's most powerful person. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
ADDS WHERE KIM APPEARED - A shopper passes by TV monitors displaying a news program at an electronic shop in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, showing a photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiling, reportedly during his first public appearance in five weeks in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim has made his first public appearance in five weeks, smiling broadly and supporting himself with a cane while touring the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District and another new institute in Pyongyang, state media reported Tuesday, ending an absence that drove a frenzy of global speculation that something was amiss with the country's most powerful person. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
A photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walking with a stick in Pyongyang, North Korea, is carried on the front page of a South Korea's English newspaper kept at a newspaper distributing station in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday evening, Oct. 14, 2014. Kim, smiling broadly and supporting himself with a walking stick, appeared earlier Tuesday in the North's state media for the first time in nearly six weeks, ending rumors that he was gravely ill, deposed or worse. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
In this image taken from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends an event to mark the second anniversary of the death of his father, former leader Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang, North Korea Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video)
FILE - In this Thursday, July 25, 2013 file photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives at the cemeteries of fallen fighters of the Korean People's Army (KPA) in Pyongyang, as part of ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula. North Korea's propaganda machine has long kept alive the myth of a serene, all-powerful ruling dynasty that enjoyed universal love and support at home. In a single stroke last week, that came crashing down. In attempting to justify the execution of his uncle, who was also considered the North's No. 2 official, young leader Kim Jong Un has given the world a rare look behind the scenes of a notoriously hard-to-read government. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E, File)
In this Saturday, July 27, 2013 photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to war veterans during a mass military parade celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice in Pyongyang, North Korea. A Malaysian university faced public criticism Thursday for awarding an honorary doctorate in economics to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whose country is among the poorest in the world. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, arrives at the cemeteries of fallen fighters of the Korean People's Army (KPA) on Thursday, July 25, 2013 in Pyongyang, North Korea as part of ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended hostilities on the Korean peninsula. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
Portraits of the late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are seen displayed as North Koreans participate in the "Arirang" mass games on Monday, July 22, 2013 in pyongyang, North Korea. North Korea has revealed a new rendition of the "Arirang" mass games, the song-and-dance ensemble. This year’s performance was timed to debut for the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, and features new scenes focusing on leader Kim Jong Un’s directives. (AP Photo/Wong Maye-E)
In this Feb. 16, 2013 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, along with his aunt Kim Kyong Hui, right, attends a statue unveiling ceremony in Pyongyang, North Korea on the anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's birthday. The aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been named to an ad-hoc state committee, the country's official media reported Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013, an indication that the execution of her husband and the country's No. 2, Jang Song Thaek ,has not immediately diminished her influence. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video, File) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
In this Feb. 16, 2013 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, waves as he attends a statue unveiling ceremony at Mangyongdae Revolutionary School in Pyongyang, North Korea on the anniversary of late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's birthday. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
In this image taken from video made available on Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers an annual New Year's Day message in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim boasted Wednesday that North Korea enters the new year on a surge of strength because of the elimination of "factionalist filth" - a reference to the young leader's once powerful uncle, whose execution last month raised questions about Kim's grip on power. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
In this Jan. 28, 2013 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivers opening remarks at the Fourth Meeting of Secretaries of Cells of the Workers' Party of Korea, in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim convened top security and foreign affairs officials and ordered them to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures," state media said Sunday, fueling speculation that he plans to push forward with a threat to explode a nuclear device in defiance of the United Nations. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) NORTH KOREA OUT, TV OUT
In this Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 image made from video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks at a banquet for rocket scientists in Pyongyang, North Korea. Kim has called for the development of more powerful rockets after last week's successful launch of a satellite into space. (AP Photo/KRT via AP Video) NORTH KOREA OUT
South Korean protesters hold the pictures of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a rally denouncing North Korea's rocket launch in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. North Korea successfully fired a long-range rocket on Wednesday, defying international warnings as the regime of Kim Jong Un took a giant step forward in its quest to develop the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead. The letters read "Out, Pro-North Korea politic." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
A cutout of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is displayed during a protest denouncing North Korea for trying to intervene in the upcoming South Korean presidential election scheduled for Dec. 20, in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012. The cutout reads "Novice." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
In this video image taken from KRT, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un holds up his credential at the Supreme People's Assembly's second meeting of the year, in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. North Korea's parliament convened Tuesday for the second time in six months, passing a law that adds one year of compulsory education for children in the socialist nation, the first publicly-announced policy change under leader Kim. (AP Photo/KRT via AP video) NORTH KOREA OUT
In this Wednesday, July 25, 2012 photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Thursday, July 26, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, waves to the crowd as they inspect the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground in Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
In this image released by by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Wednesday July 25, 2012 North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, centre, Ri Sol Ju, centre left. visit the Rungna People's Pleasure Ground, which is nearing completion, in this undated picture North Korea's new, young leader Kim Jong Un is married, state TV reported Wednesday for the first time in a brief and otherwise routine announcement that ends weeks of speculation about a beautiful woman who has accompanied him to recent public events. Kim toured an amusement park with his "wife, comrade Ri Sol Ju" on Tuesday, while a crowd cheered for the leader, the news anchor said without giving any more details about Ri, including how long they had been married. (AP Photo/KCNA KNS) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
North Korea's new commander in chief, Kim Jong Un is displayed on a giant screen during a concert on the eve of the 80th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army in Pyongyang, North Korea, Tuesday, April 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
An effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is burned by anti-North Korea protesters during a rally denouncing the North's recent announcement in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, April 24, 2012. North Korea sharply escalated the rhetoric against its southern rival, claiming it will soon conduct "special actions" that would reduce South Korea's conservative government to ashes within minutes. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves from a balcony at the end of a mass military parade in Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate 100 years since the birth of his grandfather, and North Korean founder, Kim Il Sung on Sunday, April 15, 2012. Kim delivered his first public televised speech Sunday, just two days after a failed rocket launch, portraying himself as a strong military chief unafraid of foreign powers during festivities meant to glorify his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
In this April 13, 2012 image made Saturday, April 14, 2012, from KRT video, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un claps hands during the meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang, North Korea. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been installed as the new head of the powerful National Defence Commission in the meeting Friday. (AP Photo/KRT via AP video) NORTH KOREA OUT, TV OUT
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrives for the unveiling ceremony for statues of late leaders Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung on Munsudae hill in Pyongyang, North Korea, Friday, April 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accompanied by Korean People's Army soldiers visits a KPA unit at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves during his visit to the Korean People's Army (KPA) Unit 3870 at an undisclosed location in North Korea. (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service) JAPAN OUT UNTIL 14 DAYS AFTER THE DAY OF TRANSMISSION
In this image made from KRT television, Kim Jong Un, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's youngest known son and successor, wipes his eyes with handkerchief as he views his father's body displayed in a glass coffin, not in photo, at Kumsusan Memorial Palace in Pyongyang, North Korea Friday, Dec. 23, 2011. Kim Jong Un, hailed as the "great successor" in state media, visited his father's coffin again Friday. (AP Photo/KRT via APTN) TV OUT, NORTH KOREA OUT
An effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is displayed during a rally to mark the the third anniversary of North Korea’s artillery attack on the Yeonpyeong island, in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013. Four people, including two marines and two civilians, were killed by North Korea's attack. The banner reads "Hang Kim Jong Un, Strike Pyongyang and Get rid of pro-North ." (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - DECEMBER 17: South Korean conservative protesters burn an effigy of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un during an anti-North Korea protest marking the second anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death on December 17, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. The tension is heightened in South Korea since the report that North Korea has executed Jang Song-Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle on December 13, 2013. On December 17, 2013 North Korea also commemorates two years since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - DECEMBER 17: South Korean conservative protesters shout slogans during an anti-North Korea protest marking the second anniversary of former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il's death on December 17, 2013 in Seoul, South Korea. The tension is heightened in South Korea since the report that North Korea has executed Jang Song-Thaek, Kim Jong Un's uncle on December 13, 2013. On December 17, 2013 North Korea also commemorates two years since the death of former leader Kim Jong-il. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
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Related links:
North Korea threatens attack on White House as US mulls returning country to terror sponsor list
Obama on Sony: 'They made a mistake' canceling 'The Interview' showings

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