North Korea's self-developed operating system comes with mandatory spyware

North Korea's self-developed operating system comes with mandatory spyware
It looks like any other operating system, but it definitely works very different.

That is the conclusion by data experts Florian Grunow and Niklaus Schiess of the German IT company ERNW, on North Korea's self-developed operating system "Red Star".

Paranoid operating system

During a conference in Hamburg in Germany this week, the audience got a description of how North Korea's operating system works in practice, by the two experts who over a longer time have analyzed the coding system being used.

And the conclusion is perhaps not very surprising: North Korea's operating system is as paranoid as the state itself.

Marks all files

In a state where everything you see and hear are being monitored and controlled, North Korea marks absolutely all files that go into the computer, according to the two experts.

In this way the country can track every file being connected to the computers.

- It is clearly a violation of privacy. It is not visible to the user, but made hidden and also affects files you have not even opened, said Grunow.

According to Reuters it is done as a result of North Korea's growing underground market for foreign films and music. This is distributed via USB sticks and are traditionally difficult to trace.

With the "Red Star" operating system however, it is possible for the authorities of the dictator-state to do so.

Fearing foreign intelligence hacking

- This is an operating system where the state controls most of the code itself, said Grunow during the conference.

The reason for this, said the experts who have examined the operating system, is that North Korea fears that their system can be hacked by foreign intelligence agencies.

- It is perhaps driven by fear. They want to be independent from other operating systems because they fear that there might be a backdoor into the system, he added.

Intranet, not Internet

North Korea's intranet is not connected to the world's internet. It only allows access to state media and some approved sites.

For over a decade they have developed their own operating system by request of the deceased dictator Kim Jong-il, father of the current dictator Kim Jong-un.

The latest version was designed in 2013, and is based on the open source system Linux.

How many computers in North Korea that use the system, and are connected to the intranet, is not known.

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