The first in-depth analysis of North Korea’s internal computer operating system has revealed spying tools capable of tracking documents offline.
Hidden features on Red Star OS (designed to superficially mimic Apple’s OS X) allow it to watermark files and tie them to an individual. Any files uploaded to the system via a USB stick or other storage device can be watermarked, allowing the state to trace the journey of that file from machine to machine. Red Star can also identify undesirable files and delete them without permission.
The covert tools were discovered by two German researchers who conducted the analysis over the past month. German researcher Florian Grunow said. “It enables [North Korean authorities] to keep track of where a document hits Red Star OS for the first time and who opened it. Basically, it allows the state to track documents.”
The idea for an internal operating system was first conceived by Kim Jong-il, according to Mr Grunow. “He said North Korea must create their own operating system and that is what they’ve done.
The extent to which Red Star is used in North Korea is not known. It is likely installed in libraries and other public buildings, says Mr Grunow, where operating systems can be decided by the state.