When technology meets the gulag

What do a North Korean tablet and an iPad have in common? In fairness iJails are not as locked down but they are surprisingly close on the spectrum.


Good day,

That article doesn’t do this thing justice. I highly recommend watching the talk if you have 60min to spare: media.ccc.de - Woolim – Lifting the Fog on DPRK’s Latest Tablet PC

To be honest though, this thing is awesome. I’m serious. The verification and protection they’ve used is not just “good” when keeping in mind which country we are talking about here. It’s not even “just great” because it (contrary to many hardware manufacturers here in Europe or the US) uses Open Source Software which is available to anyone to “protect” this device from executing “malicious software”.

No, the way verification technology, RSA based encryption, sanity checks and more have been implemented is actually rather complex and highly sophisticated. Not for “a small communist nation with little contact to the outside world”, but very good and well made period. A lot of companies, especially those selling these “crypto-smartphones” could honestly learn a thing or two from the implementation here. I mean, just getting surface layer access to the memory was hard for professional European IT safety researchers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The reasons for this are appalling to say the least. But on a technical side, what has been done here is rather sophisticated and impresses me a lot. It thus honestly horrifies me, knowing that the developers who are able to create such an “relatively air-tight” system are doing it for these reasons and furthermore impresses me even more when looking at the restrictions they likely had to work with.

Adding to all of that, you have to marvel at their disclosure of the tracking involved. I mean, they take periodic screenshots and send them of to the government, but they don’t hide it or make any excuses for it. The screenshots are openly and intentionally visible so any user knows right away that he shouldn’t even try to “do something funny”. It is orwellian but at the same time also open and honest.

Have a nice day,