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North Korea's Android Tablet Takes a Screenshot Every Time You Open an App (vice.com) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: When you think of North Korea, the first thing that springs to mind is probably not a well-featured tablet PC. But that's just what researchers at the Chaos Communication Congress hacking festival revealed on Tuesday. Called Woolim, this tablet is designed to limit the distribution of contraband media, track its users, and generally act as a propaganda platform for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Woolim is a small, white Android device that looks like a fairly standard tablet. The hardware itself is made by Chinese manufacturer Hoozo, but the North Korean government has removed some components such as those for wi-fi and bluetooth, and put its own bespoke software on top. After the researchers presented work covering RedStar OS, North Korea's Linux-based operating system, a South Korean NGO offered the tablet to the group. Woolim is just one of several tablets designed for North Korea, but Woolim appears to be the most recent, likely dating from 2015. The tablet has PDFs on how to use it; various propaganda texts for users to read as well as the capability to play local TV and connect to the country's own internet, and it also comes with a slew of educational apps, such as French, Russian, and Chinese dictionaries. There's even an app for kids which teaches them how to type with a keyboard, and video games such as Angry Birds that have been lightly customized. The tablet only allows specific files to be used or played: users cannot just load whatever they want onto the device. Woolim also constantly keeps tabs on what its users are up to. Whenever a user opens an app, the tablet takes a screenshot. These screenshots are then available for viewing in another app, but they can't be deleted.
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North Korea's Android Tablet Takes a Screenshot Every Time You Open an App

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  • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2016 @05:34PM (#53567557)

    There's even an app for kids which teaches them how to type with a keyboard, and video games such as Angry Birds that have been lightly customized.

    "Lightly customized?" I'm pretty sure that's colloquially known as "pirated" [washingtonpost.com].

    • by aevan ( 903814 )
      Ah, but when done with government approval., it's merely privateering. Considering the Koreas only had a ceasefire, and the US is its ally, it rather works.
      • In North Korea, if Kim Jong Un says it is not a violation of copyright, it is not, at least not until the device arrives in a different country and jurisdiction.

    • I am really hoping the "customization" is the inclusion of a leader that is basically already an Angry Bird [mirror.co.uk] in mentality and shape.

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      "Lightly customized?" I'm pretty sure that's colloquially known as "pirated" [washingtonpost.com].

      Well... if "pirated" means "illegally copied and distributed", that verb doesn't apply in this case.

      Wikipedia has a conventient list of countries [wikipedia.org] showing when they became signatories to various intellectual property treaties. Note the entry for "Korea, Democratic People's Republic of".

      There is no international law that requires countries to honor arrangements established by treaties they haven't signed, or to respect legal monopolies granted by other countries. So what North Korea has done is perfectly le

      • by c ( 8461 )

        So what North Korea has done is perfectly legal both by its own laws and by international law.

        It's worth noting that North Korea doesn't even get a mention in the USTR Special 301 Report, so obviously they're not doing anything wrong or dodgy as far as copyright goes. Unless that report is a load of crap or something.

    • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

      It's not pirated unless DPRK has extended copyright protection to those companies. I'm pretty sure they haven't, so there is no crime or violation whatsoever.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Don't think you have *any* rights or privacy on these devices.

    The US is pioneer in spying on and imprisoning it's own citizens. DPRK is only just catching up. US is far, far, worse.

  • by sims 2 ( 994794 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2016 @05:50PM (#53567641)

    If they can't be deleted then how long can the tablet be used before it runs out of memory?

  • I guess North Korea doesn't have Internet as we're used to it; they have a CAN (Country Area Network) and a CAN'T.
    And the CAN'T is much, much bigger.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My Samsung Galaxy(Android really) takes some sort of screenshot of every app.Hold down the home key and there's a stack of "cards" with all the last screenshots. They all have an X to close them and you might think that you've deleted them all.

    But, hold down the home key again and your presented with another older list of screenshots.

  • Not sure if it's really needed
  • by Cajun Hell ( 725246 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2016 @06:35PM (#53567847) Homepage Journal
    WTF is this Korea place, anyway? Part of Britain?
  • Once again North Korea is caught copying Windows 10....

  • Not disappointed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CohibaVancouver ( 864662 ) on Wednesday December 28, 2016 @07:38PM (#53568229)
    Purposely came to the comments section to read all the "Yeah? Well the USA is *way* worse than North Korea!" posts from Anonymous Coward nutjobs who wouldn't survive for ten minutes in North Korea.

    Was not disappointed.
  • What other governments around the world want for their citizens. Coming soon to a country near you lol. Yes I know tin foil hat but is it really that off of a prediction?
  • First, it says that wifi and bluetooth have been removed, then it says they can get onto the DPRK 'Internet', and watch local TV(!) How? I could understand if they have a GSM connection that supplies the networking (although if that is so, why remove the wifi?), but how does it access TV? I highly doubt their GSM infrastructure can support IPTV, although perhaps I'm wrong. If they do, in fact, have IPTV, I hope someone here in the states gets (and shares) access to it; I'd be fascinated to see their liv
  • It's like every other tablet but they are honest about the spying. Kind of curious how it will work on the psychology of its users. Can they sell it's either privacy or security mutual exclusivity like they sold us here in the Western world without using terrorism, or is the populous already so submissive and suffering the chilling effect that this will easily not be a problem.
  • "users cannot just load whatever they want onto the device" --> just like all iOS devices
  • It has a feature which captures and sends a screen shot back to the govt every time someone opens an application. Someone has to review these screen shots to be sure that there is no "Dictator Kim is a goof'' message showing.

    How many minutes until someone takes a picture of their butt and sends that in to the government recepticle? And how much longer until there is an app for that, perhaps pre-loaded with the infamous goat sex guy [no link]? And would it not be nice of that government repository were

  • Woolim also constantly keeps tabs on what its users are up to. Whenever a user opens an app, the tablet takes a screenshot. These screenshots are then available for viewing in another app, but they can’t be deleted.
    So this would suggest that the self-filling of the storage with screenshots is inevitable. Sort of like a disposable tablet then? Whenever it fills up with screenshots you submit it for analysis and they give you a new one, lol?
  • It's made to facilitate the work on photographing and sending dickpics, you insensitive clod!

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