An unidentified Internet user posting under the name of the Anonymous hacking collective has published a “hit list” of North Korean websites.
The list is said to be related to a coordinated attack that hackers appear to be planning for June 25. The action is part of “OpNorthKorea,” which previously took sites in North Korea and China offline in a series of distributed denial of service attacks.
The source of the list is unclear but it’s somewhat out of date. Some of the addresses on the list were previously used by North Korean-related websites, but are no longer active.
One of the sites listed, DKLotto.com, was an Internet-based lottery site run by a North Korean group in China but hasn’t been online since almost ten years ago. The address appears to have been picked up by a Japanese spam site related to credit card payments.
It’s unclear what will happen on June 25, but it appears at least some hackers will target North Korean websites. Other lists making the rounds on the Internet are based on the North Korean Website List on this site, which is more up to date.
Here are the sites from the list:
내나라 (http://www.kcckp.net/ko/, http://www.naenara.kp/ko/)
민족사랑의 장소 (http://www.krsrt.com)
실리 은행 (http://www.silibank.com)
우리 민족끼리 (http://www.uriminzokkiri.com)
자주 평화 민족대단결 (http://www.members.fortunecity.com/ym2)
재미동포 전국 연합회 (http://www.kancc.org)
조국 평화 통일 협회 (http://www.jpth.net)
조국 통일 21 (http://www.tongil21.com)
조선 우표(중국) (http://www.dprk-stamp.com)
조선 음악 (http://www.big.or.jp/~jrldr/)
조선 출판물 (http://www.dprk-book.com)
조선의 노래 (http://www.dprkoreamusic.com)
코리아 네트워크 (http://www.worldcorea.net)
코리아 북 센터(일본) (http://www.krbook.net)
통일학연 연구소 (http://www.onekorea.org)
Pyongyang’s Spring International Trade Fair is due to open next week, the state-run Korea Central News Agency reported Monday.
This year’s event will run from May 13 to 16 and will bring together companies from Germany, Malaysia, Mongolia, Switzerland, Singapore, Australia, Italy, Indonesia, China, Poland and Taiwan, KCNA said.
Vendors will show machines, electric and electronic products, light industrial goods, foodstuffs, medical instruments, medicines, building materials, chemical goods and vehicles, the report said.
Last year’s event saw the debut of a tablet computer said to have been developed by the Korea Computer Center image, right).
The number of Chinese companies attending the event has been growing in previous years as vendors of machinery, electronics, food and clothing have been making the short trip to Pyongyang.
KCNA said the event “will contribute to boosting cooperation and exchange in trade, economic and scientific and technological fields among countries and regions,” and it it comes at an interesting time.
The country’s biggest international trade venture, the Kaesong Industrial Zone, is currently stalled after the DPRK blocked the entry of South Korean workers and withdrew local staff. South Korean companies have now withdrawn all their staff and factories are idle.
While North Korean might prove an interesting market for some companies, the problems in Kaesong underline investment is still only for those with a strong stomach.
The event is one of two major trade fairs that take place in the North Korean capital every year. The other, six months later, is the Autumn International Trade Fair.
This year, it is scheduled to take place between October 21st and 24th.
This week the U.S. Department of Defense published its annual report to Congress on military and security developments Involving the DPRK. The 20-page unclassified document provides a good if brief overview of the current state of North Korean armed forces. For tech-watchers, it doesn’t include any surprises.
The country’s cyber warfare capabilities were addresses in one carefully worded paragraph. The DoD noted the allegations made in South Korea that the DPRK was behind several attacks, but didn’t itself assert any involvement or disclose any knowledge of the country’s actual capability.
In fact, the DoD noted that finding the ultimate source of a cyber attack is very difficult.
Here’s the cyberwarfare section in full:
Cyberwarfare Capabilities. North Korea probably has a military computer network operations (CNO) capability. Implicated in several cyber attacks ranging from computer network exploitation (CNE) to distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks since 2009, the North Korean regime may view CNO as an appealing platform from which to collect intelligence.
• According to a ROK newspaper, Seoul’s Central Prosecutor’s office attributed to North Korea a CNO activity on the ROK’s National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (Nonghyup Bank) servers in April 2011. Through remote execution, actors rendered the bank’s online services inaccessible and deleted numerous files concerning customer bank accounts while removing all evidence of CNO activity in the bank’s servers.
• In the years spanning 2009-2011, North Korea was allegedly responsible for conducting a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against ROK commercial, government and military websites, rendering them inaccessible.
Technical attribution of cyberspace operations remains challenging due to the internet’s decentralized architecture and inherent anonymity. Given North Korea’s bleak economic outlook, CNO may be seen as a cost-effective way to modernize some North Korean military capabilities. As a result of North Korea’s historical isolation from outside communications and influence, it is likely to employ Internet infrastructure from third-party nations.
The ranking, by Washington, D.C., -based Freedom House was published on Wednesday and this year gave North Korea a score of 96. That still leaves it at the absolute bottom of the survey, this year tied with Turkmenistan, but its a point higher than last year.
The extra point came, “as a result of increased attempts to circumvent stringent censorship and the use of technologies such as smuggled DVDs to spread news and information,” Freedom House said in the report.
Recent years have seen a rise in the entry into the DPRK of smuggled DVDs and USB sticks containing movies and South Korean TV programs. The contraband comes across the country’s northern border with China and is said to be increasingly popular and influential in North Korea.
The government conducts occasional crackdowns to catch people watching the DVDs. According to information from the country, this sometimes this involves switching power off to entire neighborhoods so discs get stuck in DVD players, then going door-to-door to check the players. For this reason and because they are smaller, USB sticks are becoming more popular so authorities are sometimes disabling the USB ports on DVD players, the reports say.
Apart from the DVDs and USB sticks, the only other media that makes it into the country on a regular basis is foreign radio broadcasts. A handful of radio stations broadcasts programs each night in Korean to North Korea and are the only daily media available to the country outside of the highly controlled state media system. However, reception of foreign radio is illegal and can also get citizens into trouble.
North Korea’s point total in the survey has been up and down a little over the last decade but hasn’t really changed much.
It’s worst year came in 2010 when it scored 99 — a reaction to the June 2009 arrest and sentencing of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee. They were later released.
A year later, the country scored two points better thanks to the admittance of a handful of foreign reporters to report on the 65th anniversary of the Korea Workers’ Party and the first public appearance of Kim Jong Un. The same year, the country also got its first full connection to the Internet.
The Freedom House survey is one of two main surveys carried out each year that looks at press freedom. The other, by Reporters Without Borders, came out in January and ranked North Korea second-last. Eritrea was bottom in that survey, it scored 94 in the Freedom House survey and was judged the fourth worst country in the world for freedom of media.
“North Korea is still ranked among the worst of the worst, but what we did see is a slight improvement,” said Karin Karlekar, director of the Freedom of the Press report project at Freedom House, in an interview with North Korea Tech. “It’s largely from increased information flowing into the country than anything the government has done.”
In addition to the DVDs and USB sticks, Karlekar also cited the greater impact of foreign radio broadcasts as being partially responsible for the additional point awarded to the DPRK this year.
“It’s a small change in a very, very restricted environment,” she said.
Freedom House also gave South Korea a single point bump this year, but that country is still ranked as “partly free.”
“We saw a slight improvement in some of the government influence over state-controlled media,” said Karlekar. She cited pressure on media outlets and Internet censorship, particularly of North Korean-related content, as among the main concerns with South Korea.
Last week, the Korean Central News Agency reported that seven local inventors received awards from the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). The awards were handed out last Wednesday and were part of events to mark world intellectual property day on April 26.
I was intrigued at how WIPO had found these inventors, so I contacted the Geneva-based organization to find out.
KCNA reported the winners as:
- Jon Hyong Su (전형수), room chief of Pyongyang University of Architecture (평양건축종합대학)
- Kim Chol Hyok (김철혁), post-graduate student of Pyongyang University of Architecture
- Hong Song Hyok (홍성혁), designer of the Management Bureau for the Preservation of the Revolutionary Sites
- Pang Chol Min (방철민이), student of Kim Chaek University of Technology
- O Kwang Won (오광원), director general of Korea Jangsu Trading Corporation (조선장수무역회사)
- Kim Chol Gon (김철건), section chief of the Korea Jangsu Trading Corporation
- Kang Song Su (강성수가), staff of the Korea Jangsu Trading Corporation
The first four on the list received their awards for “the construction of monuments by completing the three dimensional curve space stoning method” and the latter three for “producing Kaesong Koryo Insam powder and inventing its production method,” said KCNA.
The powder (image, right) is used as an ingredient in food and helps increase immunity and treat diseases, the news agency added. Korea Jangsu Trading Corp. sells it in China.
The awards were made as part of a long-standing WIPO program in which the Organization’s 186 member states submit requests for awards, a WIPO spokesman told me. The DPRK had been a WIPO member since 1974.
The national intellectual property offices of each state select winners and make the submissions to WIPO at least three months prior to the awards event and WIPO evaluates the requests and responds to them, he said.
“To qualify for an award, nominees should have either obtained a patent for their invention or filed for one,” said the spokesman.
By way of reference, WIPO received requests from 40 member states in 2012 and distributed 220 awards in total.
The awards given last week were in recognition of inventions presented at the 12th National Invention and New Technology Exhibition, which took place from August 27 to September 3, 2012 in Pyongyang.
When South Korean workers began leaving the Kaesong Industrial Zone a couple of weeks ago, they returned across the border in cars and trucks laden with as much finished merchandise as possible.
Plastic-wrapped packages and boxes didn’t just fill the interior of cars but were stacked high on the roof, sometimes even covering the car’s bonnet and hanging off the back. After all, getting those goods to market was the prime concern at the time when people thought Kaesong operations might be suspended for a few days or weeks.
Now it’s looking like the shutdown will last longer and there are new concerns for South Korean companies that tie-up operations and pull out their remaining workers.
One of the most important issues they need to address is data security.
It was relatively easy to control access to offices when workers remained, but with everyone gone there’s no telling what will happen to the factories, facilities and their contents.
And that means that any data stored on computers in the offices, whether it’s company operational data, intellectual property or even private correspondence, could possibly be accessed if left behind.
KBS broadcast images today of at least one truck that came across the border with desktop computers or servers that had been removed from offices.
And Woori Bank, the only South Korean bank inside the industrial zone, also brought back computers when it closed down operations on Monday. The bank handled wage payments to North Korean workers at the complex and contained transaction records for all South Korean companies in Kaesong, according to the Chosun Ilbo.
They also brought back around US$100,000.
Bank staff had to be wary of North Korean wire taps when making phone calls with headquarters. “We refrained from discussing over the phone how much money was left in our safe,” a staffer said. — Chosun Ilbo, April 30, 2013.
Coincidentally, the Japanese Coast Guard is currently taking heat for poor data security measures. The Yomiuri Shimbun reported a decommissioned patrol vessel was sold by the Coast Guard to a scrap metal company without checking if the ship’s navigation computer had been wiped of tracking records.
The computer periodically records the position of the vessel and there’s worry by the Yomiuri that the data could reveal patrol patterns if accessed.
But why is this a big deal for the newspaper? Because the scrap metal company is owned by someone with membership of Chongryon, aka the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan — a pro-DPRK group.
The company owner assured the newspaper the boat and computer were both scrapped.
Choson Sinbo (조선신보, 朝鮮新報), the newspaper of the DPRK-affiliated Korean community in Japan, has apologized to its readers after its user database was leaked over the weekend by hackers.
The Tokyo-based newspaper ran an apology on its website in both Korean and Japanese in which it acknowledged the Saturday attack resulted in the disclosure of private information about registered users of the web site.
The database, seen by NorthKoreaTech.org, contained the usernames and email addresses of 3,667 registered users. The vast majority of the users appear to be based in Japan and the email addresses leaked include those of companies, universities, personal addresses and cell phones.
In reaction to the attack, the newspaper has opened up access to its site and does not currently require a user name or password to access any content. The membership didn’t require any payment, so bank account or credit card details were not held by the site.
The attack was one of three that hit North Korea-related sites over the weekend. One resulted in the publishing of details on just over 1,300 users of the Korea American National Coordinating Council (재미동포전국연합회) website and the other details of a handful of users of the China-based Ryomyong (려명) site.
The attacks were carried out by hackers who claimed affiliation with the loosely organized “Anonymous” hacker group. Members of the group have been waging a weeks-long battle against North Korean websites that was sparked by a threat to attack American military bases in the region.