North Korea's Red Star OS targets illegal foreign media

North Korea has long been developing its own operating system called Red Star OS, a Linux distro with a design blatantly 'inspired by' Mac OS X. Thanks to German researchers Niklaus Schiess and Florian Grunow, the operating system has been laid bare more so than ever before; the pair managed to download Red Star OS from beyond North Korea and tasked themselves with analyzing it.

The researchers detailed the operating system at a conference this past weekend, revealing that it is largely a new system developed by the nation for the nation — one that is paranoid and, at least more recently, tasked with squashing the infiltration of foreign media into the insular nation.

The Red Star OS version analyzed by the researchers is said to be based on Fedora and was written in 2013 or thereabouts. Among other things, the OS is said to have its own type of encryption and to have its' core functions locked down. If a user tries to tweak any major settings — disable the firewall, for example — the computer will just reboot or toss up an error.

Most interesting, though, is the 'watermarking' of media that happens without the user's knowledge, a move to squash the proliferation of foreign movies, music, and such in the nation. Illegal foreign media has long been traded in North Korea, something that is easier than ever thanks to small SD cards and flash drives.

To combat this, Red Star OS reportedly tags every bit of media it comes into contact with, whether it is on a drive connected to the computer or on the computer itself, including files that aren't even accessed. Once tagged, the media files can then be traced back to whomever has them and, presumably, the source of them.

SOURCE: The Guardian