Social control and technology go hand in hand. When the internet became massive, many people believed that this would spell the end of totalitarian governments. The free circulation and availability of information would prevent the authorities of a country from lie and enslave their citizens.
Unfortunately it was not like that. Even in countries where, at least from the formal point of view, there is a democracy measures have been taken to restrict freedom of opinion and access to public data on the Net. As a funny man said, at some point 1984 became an instruction manual.
Some time ago, we told you on the Russian law of Internet control, in turn inspired by that of China. Today we are going to see how it works in North Korea the system to prevent citizens from accessing content that in the rest of the world we consider common, such as social networks, Wikipedia, Netflix or Google.
This information comes from work by journalist Martyn Williams for the North Korea Human Rights Committee.
Table of Contents
Restricted Internet access
All Internet infrastructure is in the hands of the state cwith a strong integration of security services. The traffic is monitored by a state agency called Office 27, or Transmission Surveillance Office.
Smartphones and computers with spyware
In North Korea it is possible to buy Android smartphones made in China, but distributed under a North Korean brand. The specifications are similar to those of the low price terminals that can be bought in any store, but They come preloaded with spyware and state-modified software.
One such program called "Red Flag" works in the background by periodically taking screenshots and recording them in a database.. The report does not clarify whether such data is sent remotely and it is believed that North Korean intelligence does not have the ability to review the activity of all citizens. Its function is believed to be to provoke fear.
You can't get privacy on desktop computers either.. North Korea produces a Linux-based operating system called "Red Star" that can spy on user activity.
File origin control
Engineers at the service of the regime created a program that identify and mark any media file viewed on any device. The first device it is opened on causes it to be marked and that mark can be traced andn the other devices on which said file is distributed and viewed. An ideal way to detect prohibited material circulation networks.
Separate mobile networks
North Korea has a mobile phone network for tourists and another for their own citizens. They are not interconnected and only foreigners allow communication with the outside. Once the SIM cards of the foreign network are no longer needed, they are deactivated.
Netflix Korean (North)
The country has two Internet television services These can be accessed using a decoder made in China and marketed under the North Korean brand. With that decoder you can access a huge amount of content approved by the Beloved Leader.
The only possibility to access other types of content is by using an old over-the-air television and tuning in to foreign channels. But, the government plans to ban them.
Mobile games developed by the State
The report we are following states that up to 125 mobile games are available to play on North Korean mobile devices, like «Volleyball 2016» and another title called «Future Cities». The existence of a Ronaldo-centric title that was becoming popular was already known.
Within the logic of the regime it makes sense. If citizens spend their free time playing domestically produced games (and paying for them), they are not spending their money on content that is contraband and not approved by the authorities.
In any case, citizens manage to circumvent these controls. According to experts, it is more difficult for the supreme leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un, control the flow of illicit microSD and SIM cards arriving through the border with China. Thanks to them, Koreans can access foreign content considered illegal or access the Internet without restrictions.
And, Kim cannot expect help from the Chinese. They will be communists, but they are not stupid. They are not going to lose business.