IT experts say North Korea’s operating system driven by fear

December 29, 2015 2:17 am

North
Korea, whose rudimentary intranet system does not connect to the
outside internet, has been developing its own operating system for more
than a decade. Photo / iStock

’s homegrown computer operating system mirrors its
political one, according to two German researchers: a go-it-alone
approach, a high degree of paranoia and invasive snooping on users.
Their
research, the deepest yet into the secretive state’s Red Star OS,
illustrates the challenges Pyongyang faces in trying to embrace the
benefits of computing and the internet while keeping a tight grip on
ideas and culture.


The
researchers, Florian Grunow and Niklaus Schiess of German IT security
company ERNW GmbH, presented their findings to the Chaos Communication
Congress, a gathering of hackers and security researchers, in Hamburg.

North Korea, whose rudimentary intranet system does not
connect to the outside internet, has been developing its own operating
system for more than a decade.
“Maybe this is a bit fear-driven,”
Grunow said. “They may want to be independent of other operating
systems because they fear back doors” which might let others spy on
them.
Any attempts to tamper with Red Star – like trying to
disable its anti-virus checker or firewall – and the computer will
display an error message, or reboot itself.
Red Star also
addresses a more pressing concern: cracking down on the growing
underground exchange of foreign movies, music and writing.
Illegal
media is usually passed from person to person in North Korea using USB
sticks and microSD cards, making it hard for the Government to track
where they come from.
Red Star tackles this by tagging every
document or media file on a computer or on any USB stick docked to it.
“[It] touches files you haven’t even opened,” says Grunow.

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