The door of the internet is opening wider for North Korea as TransTeleCom starts routing traffic from the secretive state.
The news was spotted by 38 North, a research institute based out of Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. Spotted late on Sunday evening, Russian telco TransTeleCom opened up the connection providing greater access for the North Koreans to the digital world. Up until now, China Unicom managed the only connection between the country and the rest of the internet.
It certainly comes at an interesting time, and will test the patience of an already eventful Presidency. In recent months, officials in the US have been stepping up the pressure on the Chinese government into ending ties with North Korea, though the Russian intervention has the potential to generate a bit of friction in a relationship which is already turbulent.
Aside from the telco space, TransTeleCom also has ties to the transport game, being a subsidiary of the Russian railway operator. Fibre cables are laid alongside the railway lines throughout the country, and it is believed the connection crosses the Friendship Bridge, which links Khasan in Russia with Tumangang in North Korea. It’s the only physical connection between the two nations.
While this might come as a shock to some, it turns out the global sensation which is the internet is quite popular with senior leadership within the North Korean government. Research from Insikt Group, revealed there are actually around 4 million smartphones in the country, though many of these which are dished out to the general public will have restricted services. However, a small number of people at the top have access to the world wide web which we know and love.
The research shows a couple of interesting things as well. Those who are deemed senior enough to access the internet, spend much of their time online checking social media accounts, searching the web, and browsing Amazon and Alibaba. Insikt also believes Facebook is the most popular social media site, despite reports that it (and many other popular social media platforms) are banned in the country.
While this is certainly a bit of interesting news, headache might start appearing across the US as official are reportedly trying to close the door between North Korea and the rest of the world. With experts believing cyber-attacks around the world could have originating in the country, the Washington Post has said the US government has been shackling the old Chinese connection with denial of service attacks to hamper the service in and out of North Korea.