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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Oct. 27)

All News 07:04 October 27, 2021

KT should go all-out to prevent recurrence

The sudden disruption of KT's wired and wireless communication network Monday is a reminder of how vulnerable a super-connected society is to an internet blackout. A large number of people suffered considerable inconvenience nationwide due to the disruption, which started around 11:20 a.m. and lasted 37 minutes. The outage hit almost all places including government offices, companies, schools, hospitals and restaurants.

KT, one of the country's leading telecom operators, cited a "routing error" as the reason for the incident. But the company caused confusion because it initially said the service stoppage was triggered by a large-scale distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on its network. KT should conduct a thorough probe in cooperation with the Ministry of Science and ICT to find out the exact cause of the service stoppage.

The network disruption is a cause for serious concern. That's why the ministry issued a Level 3 warning on its five-tier alert system. No one can overemphasize the importance of the stable operation of telecommunication networks which are essential to daily life and crucial to the nation's security. It was unprecedented to see the blackout paralyzing the internet, payment systems, banking operations, stock trading, video conferencing, online classes and many other services throughout the country.

Such a large-scale disruption usually causes not only inconvenience and chaos, but also inflicts massive damage on users. It could also pose a serious security threat to the country. Thus both the telecom operator and the government should make strenuous efforts to prevent a recurrence. The more we become dependent on internet connectivity, the greater risks we face from network outages. For this reason, the country must establish comprehensive preventive measures.

Now we have to ask: What have telecom operators and the government done so far to ensure the stability and security of the country's communication networks? The answer might be that they have failed to do their best to provide services without any glitches. If that is true, not only KT but also the regulators and policymakers should be held accountable for the mishap. In addition, KT must pay compensation to its network users for their losses.

The service disruption came almost three years after KT saw a similar blackout due to a fire at an underground network center in Ahyeon-dong, western Seoul, in November 2018. KT appears to have failed to learn a lesson from that incident. The company cannot avoid criticism for neglecting to fix its structural problems, let alone technical glitches, to provide better services.

Monday's internet blackout should be a wakeup call to our wired society. It also must serve as an opportunity to set up a safer, flawless telecommunication network in this digital age. Otherwise, we have to pay the price for technical glitches, human errors or cyberattacks.

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