32c3 Video: Analysis of Red Star, the North Korean OS

Did you know that Kim Jong Un, the glorious, fearless, and immaculately rotund leader of North Korea, loves Mac OS X (and possibly Madonna)? If not, you’ll want to check out this video about Red Star OS, the operating system which the North Korean government has put together for their citizens.

I’ve posted a few things from the awesome conference (the “Congress”) hosted by the Chaos Communications Club before. Another great talk I forgot to mention was one that I missed at 32c3 in Hamburg (but just found online): “Lifting the Fog on Red Star OS.”

A few things surprised me here: Red Star OS actually ships with better hardening than most popular Linux distributions (SELinux enabled, iptables enabled, snort IDS installed and ready to be enabled, etc.).

The operating system seems to be designed to withstand attack, just as much as it’s designed to surveil people and keep track of who is sharing information.

The researchers analyzing this leaked version of Red Star OS (3.0) also found an interesting approach for the North Korean government to retain control over the OS; namely by using two entities which protect each other (unkillable processes, unmodifiable file). There’s also some interesting file watermarking going on, to keep track of which computers have had access to (or opened) a given file.

Check out the full video; it’s pretty fascinating and only a little bit technical: