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Censorship Media Crime Government

Inside the North Korean Data Smuggling Movement 62

Sparrowvsrevolution writes A new Wired magazine story goes inside the North Korean rebel movement seeking to overthrow Kim Jong-un by smuggling USB drives into the country packed with foreign television and movies. As the story describes, one group has stashed USB drives in Chinese cargo trucks. Another has passed them over from tourist boats that meet with fishermen mid-river. Others arrange USB handoffs at the Chinese border in the middle of the night with walkie talkies, laser pointers, and bountiful bribes. Even Kim assassination comedy The Interview, which the North Korean government allegedly hacked Sony to prevent from being released, has made it into the country: Chinese traders' trucks carried 20 copies of the film across the border the day after Christmas, just two days after its online release.
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Inside the North Korean Data Smuggling Movement

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  • This exact same topic was covered in Frontline's special on North Korea [pbs.org] over a year ago. Their point of contact was Jiro Ishimaru of Asiapress [northkoreatech.org] who was sneaker netting USBs over the border. They even took a video of people trying to watch on a tiny screen and having to shut everything down whenever they heard someone outside.

    The documentary also touched on humanitarian issues [nytimes.com] as much as it could using a secret camera. Sad stuff. Great thing to watch. Occasionally you can catch it streaming on Netflix but it seems to not be available right now.
    • by dysmal ( 3361085 )
      I knew this story sounded familiar. Thanks for reminding me about this Frontine episode!!!
    • Information is trivial to transport these days. Sneakernet seems a bit clumsy when you can broadcast bandwidth invisibly through the air, or at worst physically drop in millions of SD cards via cheap drone or light aircraft. Hell, if you are serious, you could drop in an millions of ipod nano sized media players fully loaded with propaganda, for the cost of one military jet. The Swarm effect is difficult to combat using conventional military tactics.
  • by Akratist ( 1080775 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @09:38AM (#49171147)
    Even if people cannot change the circumstances of their existence, they are able to change their thoughts and opinions and recognize that what they're being told to think doesn't match up with reality. People who lived behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War realized that they were being fed a line of BS and were eager to read western literature and listen to western music when they could find it, even if they weren't going to get Soviet tanks to leave by force.
    • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @11:58AM (#49172567) Journal
      they are able to change their thoughts and opinions and recognize that what they're being told to think doesn't match up with reality.

      Apparently all those people are dead and Putin has been able to destroy history. Despite the overwhelming evidence of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the vast majority of Russians still believe one or more of the below items as told to them by Putin and his state-controlled media. Just a quick rundown of the lies encompass:

      - the U.S. was behind the overthrow of Yanukovych (False. Once again our vaunted experts were surprised by the downfall of a country's leader)

      - Yanukovych fleeing was the result of a U.S. coup (False. Similar to above, but slightly different as the Russians are claiming the U.S. sponsored a coup, which it wasn't. Yanukovych fled because the Ukrainian parliament abandoned him when he ordered the murder of protestors in Maidan Square)

      - the current Ukrainian government are fascists (False. Fascists are people like Putin who use taxpayer money to support selected businesses or people. Also, it is well known that Putin's government orders the confiscation of personal and business property to be managed under state control. Witness the annexation of Crimea and how businesses there are feeling this effect)

      - the current Ukrainian government are Nazis (False. Only one militia group, Azov battalion, is known to use Nazi symbols and/or policies in their organization. As they are not under direct control of the government, they're privately funded, to claim the entire Ukrainian government are Nazis is of course false)

      - the Ukrainian government ordered attacks on Russian speakers in the East when it came to power (False. No such attacks by government forces has ever been documented, even by the people claiming such attacks.)

      - the Ukrainian government shot down the Malaysian airliner (False. Substantial evidence shows the Russian-backed rebels shot down the plane thinking it was a Ukrainian military plane and then bragged about it on Twitter and elsewhere before they retracted their statements once the truth was known)

      - there are no Russian troops fighting in Ukraine (False. Documented graves of dead Russian soldiers show a MINIMUM of 1,000 troops dead. Other estimates gathered by Russian mothers has put the estimate closer to 5,000. It is known 100 or so died in one incident in late 2014 around Donetsk. Further, Russian state tv showed the equivalent of Russian marines fighting at the Donetsk airport with their arm patches visible).

      - Russia is not supplying equipment to the rebels (False. Near daily convoys of Russian equipment are seen crossing into Eastern Ukraine, this is in addition to equipment captured by government forces, equipment which is only manufactured in Russia and never owned by the Ukrainian military.)
      • Does Russia pay people to troll online forums to push party propaganda on unwitting users? That would be despicable.
        • Yes, Russia does do this. Evidence has surfaced (just like Russia sending troops and equipment to invade Ukraine) of locations and the amount these people are being paid to post Russian propaganda.

          The nice thing about these trolls is they are easy to spot for several reasons including:

          1) They use the word fascist when describing Ukrainian leaders
          2) They use the words junta and Kiev in the same sentence
          3) They describe Ukrainian troops as Nazis
          4) They consistently ask for proof of Russian equipment and men

  • safer than dvds (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Camembert ( 2891457 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @09:40AM (#49171161)
    I once read that sometimes the secret service in N. Korea would switch off the electricity of a block of houses and then do a raid. DVD players would be stuck with the disc inside, and if it turned out to be a western movie then the owner had a real risk of being executed. The solution was to use UPS. Of course usb sticks are easier to conceal.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      I highly doubt that. Every CD/DVD player I've ever seen had a tiny whole, where you can put a small, narrow thing (needle, toothpick, paper clip etc.) and it would eject disk even when not powered.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That would be the case if you suspected up front that the blackout was intentional, and had the time to find a sharp object and insert it in the DVD player, in the dark (that's an important detail), before the house was invaded.

    • Laptop/Tablet/Battery powered device?
  • This is old news (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    We still do the same from Hong Kong into mainland china, smuggling in every thing their crazy censorship government doesn't want them to know, like tianamen massacre (6/4) and scandals with government official

  • AKA the CIA

    • by bobbied ( 2522392 ) on Tuesday March 03, 2015 @10:24AM (#49171575)

      AKA the CIA

      We wish.... Actually NK is one of the few places the CIA is unlikely to have that much influence over. The time to get assets into the country was long ago and where I'm betting we have *some* local help, the nature of NK society is going to make it really hard to have much direct involvement.

      Of course, this leaking in of foreign entertainment and information via USB sticks is becoming harder and harder to control and once the Kim family looses control of the propaganda war, things will change on their own. I think we are actually pretty close to the tipping point in some places in NK, but for now the fear of the Kim family is keeping things under control. Once the country tips though, there will be a short and intense period of violence that I hope stays contained within the country, but I fear will spill out to the south. Once that is over, North Korea will be split into two parts, one unified with the south and a portion annexed into China. I have no idea where the split will be.

      • Of course, this leaking in of foreign entertainment and information via USB sticks is becoming harder and harder to control and once the Kim family looses control of the propaganda war, things will change on their own. I think we are actually pretty close to the tipping point in some places in NK, but for now the fear of the Kim family is keeping things under control. Once the country tips though, there will be a short and intense period of violence that I hope stays contained within the country, but I fear will spill out to the south. Once that is over, North Korea will be split into two parts, one unified with the south and a portion annexed into China. I have no idea where the split will be.

        I really could not disagree more. Victor Cha, who wrote the book _The Impossible State_ about North Korea, has actually been there and served under multiple US presidents as an expert on the regime. Cha says that the average person in North Korea is so busy just trying to survive day to day that it is impossible for any kind of revolution to spring up from the masses. This plan that information being smuggled in is going to make a huge difference is simply the unrealistic dream of a generation raised on

        • Well, I hold out hope that *something* will happen, eventually.

          The Kim's do hold power based on two things, intimidation and information. They control information flow in and out and intimidate their way though rebellion. However, their grip on information is starting to crumble and the fabric of their control over information is fraying around the edges so the Kim's have to step up the intimidation part of the game which they still control. Eventually there won't be any intimidation left to ramp up and

        • It wouldn't surprise me if some people believed that our movies and information are just our propaganda to deceive them.

          Well, that's not too far from the truth. Not that we are actively trying to deceive them, but there are plenty of North Korean defectors that upon reaching South Korea are disillusioned that what they saw in South Korean soap operas and movies, usually portraying well to do if not upper classes, is not the reality for the common person.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Once the country tips though, there will be a short and intense period of violence that I hope stays contained within the country, but I fear will spill out to the south. Once that is over, North Korea will be split into two parts, one unified with the south and a portion annexed into China. I have no idea where the split will be.

        Somehow I find that implausible, I expect China to take the whole country or not at all. South Korea would be to worried about a conventional or nuclear counter-attack on Seoul to do much of anything while China could probably swoop in and install a new authoritarian regime that by NK standards would seem like heaven, all they need to do is bring them into the 21th century. After that I'll think it'll be a bit like Life of Brian:

        Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?
        Attendee: Brought peace?
        Reg: Oh, peace - shut up!
        Reg: There is not one of us who would not gladly suffer death to rid this country of the Romans once and for all.
        Dissenter: Uh, well, one.
        Reg: Oh, yeah, yeah, there's one. But otherwise, we're solid.

        • You may be right, but I think South Korea might be a bit miffed if China gets the whole pie and I'm not so sure China wants to get involved in North Korea's struggles if it can avoid it. It will cost a LOT of money and resources to bring the north up to third world standards and I don't think China wants to be forced into spending on this. South Korea, on the other hand, has both the resources and the will to do this. I think the key will be what the USA does in partnership with South Korea and how commi

    • AKA the CIA

      You know what? I wish. Would be the best thing the ever did.

  • Why haven't we "smuggled" a 2,000lb JDAM into North Korea to where ol' Kimmy boy sleeps at night? That would end most of this stupidity in the time it takes for it to be delivered from 40,000ft.

    And before you say "Well his smarter generals will just take over"

    I will counter with a quote from The Engineer "how am I go to stop some big mean mother hubbard from tearing me a structurally superfluous new behind.....the answer use a gun...and if that don't work, use more gun."

    If one doesn't work, apply

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 )

      Why haven't we "smuggled" a 2,000lb JDAM into North Korea to where ol' Kimmy boy sleeps at night?

      One good reason is that any outbreak of open war would very likely result in the immediate deaths of tens of thousands of South Koreans in Seoul. The South Korean capital is only 35 miles from the North Korean border, and the North Korean government is relying on a sort of mutually-assured-destruction strategy there to deter foreign attacks.

      • See the answer above about using "more gun"

        The progressives in this country are hot and heavy to get rid of all of the US's nukes. A NK disposal solution, also known as a two-fer, would take care of things.

        I highly doubt NK could detect a Cessna, much less ICBMs warheads before it was too late.

  • The Chinese media distribution system is days more efficient at distributing movies than Hollywood is.

    Chew on *that*, MPAA!
  • The poor, oppressed North Korean people live under a cruel dictator and then, to make their lives even worse, we subject them to Hollywood.

    We are almost as evil as Kim Jong Un.

    Why not just give them weapons and intel?

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