Hackers from the loose online coalition Anonymous took control of North Korea's semiofficial social media streams Thursday and defaced two websites also linked to the regime there, the latest and most successful attacks in an ongoing online campaign against Pyongyang.
North Korea's official websites appeared unaffected, casting doubt on the hackers' claims that they had penetrated the regime's air-gapped national Intranet, Kwangmyong.
The Korean language Twitter feed @uriminzok, which belongs to a North Korean-run website based in China, began tweeting in English in the early hours of Thursday morning.
"Hacked," one message read. "Tango Down," stated another — online slang meaning a website has been "taken down," or knocked offline.
The English tweets were still there Thursday afternoon.
A Flickr feed administered by the same website, Uriminzokkiri.com, posted pictures of an iconic Anonymous image — the Guy Fawkes mask from the movie "V" — in front of a North Korean flag, and of third-generation North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un as a pig with a Mickey Mouse tattoo.
The feed normally distributes official photographs of Mr. Kim's daily activities, which are the main staple of all media in North Korea.
The pig caricature of Mr. Kim also appeared on the front and only page of the defaced website aindf.com, run by the Anti-Imperialist National Democratic Front, a political organization in South Korea that advocates reunifying the country under the North's Korean Workers' Party regime — and is widely seen as a puppet of Pyongyang.
Official North Korean websites such as the Korea Central News Agency, kcna.kp, appeared unaffected.
In a Web posting earlier this week, the hackers, saying they were from the anarchistic online alliance Anonymous, claimed to have control of the mail and Web servers of Uriminzokkiri.com and to have infiltrated Kwangmyong — North Korea's national intranet, which is said to be inaccessible from the World Wide Web.
The website Uriminzokkiri.com itself was unreachable Thursday, but it was not clear if this was because it had been taken over by hackers, shut down by its owners or knocked offline by some other cyberattack.
Uriminzokkiri.com is the principle channel through which South Koreans can see the output of North Korea's state-controlled media. Spreading North Korean propaganda is illegal in South Korea, and the country's Internet providers block Pyongyang's official sites, but Uriminzokkiri.com, with its Twitter feed, Flickr stream and YouTube channel has been harder to stop.
In a posting Thursday, the hackers provided a detailed logistical account of their claim to have accessed Kwangmyong, the Pyongyang intranet, but no actual proof.
The posting urged North Koreans "to rise up and bring these [expletive] of a oppressive government down!"
"Don't fear us, we are not terrorist, we are the good guys from the internet," the statement continued. "Anons are here to set you free."
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