back to article North Korea's Red Star Linux inserts sneaky serial content tracker

ERNW security analyst Florian Grunow says North Korea's Red Star Linux operating system is tracking users by tagging content with unique hidden tags. The operating system, developed from 2002 as a replacement for Windows XP, was relaunched with a Mac-like interface in 2013's version three. The newest version emerged in January …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Looks like the Norks are creating their own little MSFT

    1. Valeyard

      Re: Bless

      <article about a Linux distro morphed into a bad thing..>

      "hey, this looks like good ammo to use against microsoft!"

      I'm an Opensuse user and your zealotrous non-sequitur even struck me as ridiculous

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bless

        Perhaps you missed the point. It wasn't "ammo against microsoft" as you put it. It was an observation of the similarities between two government projects to use domestic software/OSs as intelligence tools. The "quietly inserting hardware based UUIDs into victims documents strategy" for example is lifted directly from MS Office '97ish. Can you really not see the pertinence?

  2. dan1980


    Glad I don't live in a country that thinks that spying on its own people is okay . . .

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      You forgot the Joke icon . . .

      1. VinceH

        Obvious joke is obvious: No icon was necessary.

        1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

          Is it really a joke if typed whilst sobbing?

          1. dan1980


            Sobbing is a bit much but I suppose my own country has broken my heart so many times (and increasingly frequently of late) that I end up receiving each new blow with slightly less flinching than the last.

            Which is of course just the way our overlords want it.

            Most telling is that I didn't really need to specify which country.

            1. Jamie Jones Silver badge

              I thought you were Australian...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does this surprise anyone in the least ?

  4. Mark 85

    So are they worse than or less than us?

    I'm thinking Google, FB, MS, et al who know what we've done and where and when we did it.

  5. Len Goddard


    And this is a surprise?

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Unexpected?

      Not really.

      This allows them to track any externally originated piece of content and have trail of breadcrumbs attached to it giving the security service who, how and when shared it.

      The fact that they are not interested in adding any tracking info to locally created content shows that they are still interested primarily in tracking foreign content and do not expect _ANY_ internal dissent.

  6. frank ly

    "When analysing the OS ..."

    I assume they read the source code which was freely provided by the distributor?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: "When analysing the OS ..."

      More likely the kernel is considered as tainted by the closed source module.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "When analysing the OS ..."

      I'm not sure GPL can be easily enforced in North Korea, although sending them Stallman for a while could be interesting, or he becomes the chief ruler, and open sources the whole country, or he gets executed...

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "opprc" = "oppress PRC"?

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. Sceptic Tank Silver badge


    This is the downside of open source: involuntarily supporting some dictatorship that fires generals with anti-aircraft guns. Let's nuke them before they nuke us.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Downside

      The "general firing" was apparently not confirmed.

      involuntarily supporting some dictatorship

      Better than voluntarily supporting some dictatorship, or enabling ISIS for "regime change", hmmmmm?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Downside

      How is this any different from distributing Windows with some hidden spyware? And I am guessing they don't worry too much about Microsoft's copyright. I would guess the *only reason* for not using MS stuff is that they are afraid it is back-doored by the US Govt.

      1. Robert Helpmann??

        Re: Downside

        On the plus side, once NK has been rehabilitated and rejoins the rest of the world, we know that at least some of its citizens will have marketable skills that will transfer into the security sector outside the country. So it could be worse, right? Right?

      2. GavinC

        Re: Downside

        it's also a violation of the Microsoft Windows use EULA to use Windows for the deployment or development of nuclear weapons. They can't use it even if they wanted to, or they'll have to face something even worse than the US military - Microsoft's lawyers!

  10. MJI Silver badge

    Red Star?

    Will they deliver parcels on Britains railway network?

  11. luaponor

    Looks like an OS X:

    Hard wors for NK IT specialists, but I can't understand why.

  12. Tubz Silver badge

    I bet Theresa May already has her minions looking at a way to make this mandatory in the UK under RIPA/DRIPA or whatever the hell she will call the snoopers charter !

    1. Camilla Smythe


      In "World War Z Rebirth" Theresa May takes a Zombie head out of her Gucci Handbag and uses it to infect Brad Pitt and then sucks all of his spunk into her fallopian tubes. Five minutes later she swells up and explodes in a shower of spores that grow into a massive reproductively viable homosexual hermaphrodite Cameron look-a-like Zombie army that go around fucking themselves and anything else in sight irrespective of genus or possible infection that might affect their viability. The third sequel, 'ConservativeZ', is already being planned. 'Coming To a Reality Near You Soon. If You Have Nothing To Hide You Have Nothing To Fear'.

      1. toxicdragon

        Re: Apparently

        Holy fuck that's a mental image.

        Beer is not enough

  13. Ian 55

    There was no earlier article on security issues, comrade

    And that is why the link to it 404s.

    It is obvious that you need some 're-education' though. No need to pack and we'll take the family too.

  14. cogitase

    You call yourselves journalists

    Did you even bother to download a copy of Red Star 3.0 and a hex editor to verify this behavior?

    I've tried a dozen different file formats and RS3.0 doesn't modify the file in any way.

    Hex code beforehand open in Hex editor on Mac OS X:

    Thumb drive open in Red Star 3.0:

    Hex code open again back in Mac OS X:

    Every time the hex code is exactly the same and the md5 checksum is unchanged. Unless I somehow magically downloaded a "pure" version of Red Star 3.0 I can't see how this is happening. Try it yourself with a freshly formatted thumb drive if you don't believe me.

  15. Lord_Beavis


    Do we all need to switch to Red Star and give them some stuff to look at that will make their hair stand on end?

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