Denial of Service attack crashes website monitoring North Korea’s nuclear test site

Somebody doesn’t like a new website that checks on secret nuclear weapon facilities around the world. On Wednesday, the Project on Crowdsourced Satellite Imagery was taken down by a denial of service attack. The attack came just two days before North Korea’s big nuclear test on September 9.

“It’s suspicious timing,” said Melissa Hanham, a senior research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. “It’s also really frustrating.” The center, based in Monterey, California, launched the imagery site in May. The idea was to buy images of sensitive sites—like the Shahrud Missile Test Facility in Iran or the Nova Zemlya nuclear site that Russia uses on a remote Arctic archipelago—from commercial satellite firms.

By comparing before and after images, eagle-eyed volunteers and trained image analysts might glean details—a funny line in the sand, or a tumble of rocks, or some new parked trucks, for example—that suggest something worrisome is afoot. The group had posted pictures of a suspected chemical weapons depot in Myanmar and a North Korean submarine shipyard that manufactures ballistic missiles that might one day carry a nuclear weapon.

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Sept. 9, 2016