American hacker says he took down North Korean internet, Wired reports

P4x says he was behind a series of outages last month.

Bree Fowler Senior Writer
Bree Fowler writes about cybersecurity and digital privacy. Before joining CNET she reported for The Associated Press and Consumer Reports. A Michigan native, she's a long-suffering Detroit sports fan, world traveler, wannabe runner and champion baker of over-the-top birthday cakes and all-things sourdough.
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Bree Fowler
2 min read
Illustration of North Korea's flag overlaid with binary code
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An American hacker says he singlehandedly took down the North Korean internet last month, according to a report from Wired.

Observers reported seeing apparent outages in North Korea's internet starting a few weeks ago. At times all of the country's websites, which only amount to a few dozen, appeared to be down. The outages came just after North Korea had carried out a series of missile tests, prompting some experts to wonder if the outages were caused by cyberattacks from a foreign country 

Now P4x, the handle used by the mystery hacker, tells Wired he attacked the rogue state in retaliation for a North Korean hacking campaign last year that targeted Western security researchers, including him. The North Koreans tried to steal hacking tools and vulnerability information, though P4x says they didn't manage to grab anything valuable from him.

The hacker's claims can't be independently verified, but Wired says it spoke with P4x, who shared screen recordings to verify his responsibility. P4x declined to use his real name for fear of prosecution or retaliation. 

"It felt like the right thing to do here," P4x told Wired. "If they don't see we have teeth, it's just going to keep coming."

P4x says he's found numerous known but unpatched bugs in North Korean systems that have allowed him to launch denial-of-service attacks on the servers and routers on which the country's few internet-connected networks depend. He largely declined to reveal those bugs to Wired, but did give one example of a known vulnerability that could be exploited to knock servers offline.

Experts say very few North Koreans have access to internet-connected systems and that most of the sites affected by the recent outages were largely used for government propaganda.