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Expert believes that 4G network in North Korea will reinforce surveillance of its citizens

Expert believes that 4G network in North Korea will reinforce surveillance of its citizens

The expert in technology Martyn Williams assured that the future installation of a network 4G in North Korea can further strengthen the capacity of the regime Kim Jong-un to spy on its citizens.

Williams, one of the researchers of the 38North program of the American Stimson Institute, recalled today in an appearance at the Seoul Correspondents’ Club that the North Korean mobile telephone network still works with 3G technology and that it is not yet available. “lots of information about their (future) 4G network.”

Whether because in the future the regime will be able, for example, to remotely give instructions to security camera systems or establish communication systems with the telephones of the entire population, the expert considers that the adoption of wireless broadband technology fourth generation in the secretive Asian country promises to further compromise the privacy of a citizenry already subject to systematic espionage by the State.

“I believe that North Korea continues to operate a generation behind the rest of the world because it allows it to buy cheaper or second-hand network equipment, as foreign suppliers close or reduce their old networks to the benefit, in this case, of the 5G and all that equipment then hits the market,” explained Williams, co-author of the recent report “Digital surveillance in North Korea” for 38 North.

In this regard, he believes that the future 4G network will surely be established from equipment 100% imported and does not rule out that North Korea has assistance from a Chinese company to do so, something that could technically violate UN sanctions.

Williams, also founder of the specialized website northkoreatech.org, remembers that, in any case, “North Korea is importing a lot of things it shouldn’t,” and it does so in the face of the difficulty of controlling what China, the world’s largest factory and its main trading partner, transfers across the border they share.

The mobile phones and tablets that North Koreans use every day – and that can only connect to local networks and browse a regime-controlled intranet – are the best example of this, either because they have been manufactured in China and imported or even assembled in China. North Korea from components manufactured in China, as is believed to have happened since the pandemic.

These devices, recalls Williams, have “extraordinary security mechanisms” that prevent the user from using them to view unauthorized materials or files or that they even serve to spy on what they do with the terminal.

Although the expert has not been able to access devices launched after the start of the pandemic (the strict border closure applied since then by North Korea has made this impossible for the moment), North Korean phones in 2019 already had a prior authorization mechanism for play or view any file.

This mechanism prevents opening files that do not have the formats authorized by the regime and, in fact, automatically deletes them when detected.

Williams knows of North Koreans who managed to hack the devices to circumvent these locks, but he discovered that, in the last devices to which he could have access, the regime had already managed to disable all “back door” to cheat the system.

All phones and tablets in North Korea also have a built-in application that takes screenshots from time to time so that there is a record of what the user is doing with the terminal.

These photos are stored in an internal folder that the user cannot view or destroy, but which the authorities apparently can access to review. “inappropriate conduct”.

Those screenshots don’t leave the device, but that could change with the advent of 4G technology.

“We believe that the 3G network does not have enough capacity for all phones in the country to be automatically transmitting photos (to a state node). But the 4G network can change that, it can lead to more active surveillance of people’s phones when it arrives,” the expert assured.

Williams concluded that “The state’s confidence in encouraging people to use smartphones shows how confident they are that the system cannot be used on a large scale to do ‘bad things’.”

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Source: Gestion

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