This may sound like the equivalent of sinking the whole Austrian navy, but someone, presumably the U.S. government or those working on its behalf, knocked out the entirety of North Korea’s Internet on Monday, for about nine hours, surrounded by long periods during which access in the country was spotty. (The other, remote possibility is that the Internet was intentionally taken down to avoid attack.)
Internet access in North Korea is of course not widespread on the best of days: It’s assumed to be only available to the elite, the military, and the country’s propaganda arm. It’s believed that, assuming North Korea was behind the Sony hacking that caused the company to cancel The Interview, it had to do so with help from China, maybe even from the Chinese government’s own hacking centers. The Times notes this tidbit about the scale of North Korea’s Internet:
Chris Nicholson, a spokesman for Akamai, an Internet content delivery company, said it was difficult to pinpoint the origin of the failure, given that the company typically sees only a trickle of Internet connectivity from North Korea. The country has only 1,024 official Internet protocol addresses, though the actual number may be a little higher. That is fewer than many city blocks in New York have. The United States, by comparison, has billions of addresses.
For comparison, your house’s WiFi network has its own IP address; North Korea has 1,024 such addresses (although each address can theoretically serve millions of customers. My guess is . . . they don’t).
To get a little Neil deGrasse Tyson on you, though, the difference between the scale of the U.S. and the North Korean IP system is less impressive if you (for no good reason besides contrarianism via facile math) express them in powers of two. That happens to be how IP addresses get chopped up — each block of addresses is a power of 2. North Korea’s 2^10 IP addresses make up one block; the United States has hundreds of blocks of 2^21 addresses each, and dozens of blocks of 2^24 addresses each, and so on, adding up to about 2^31 or so IP addresses, compared to North Korea’s 2^10. It almost looks like they’re catching up!