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North Korean OS can track files and even users

North Korea has its own operating system called Red Star OS and, as you might have imagined, it helps the state to track individual files and users from system to system.

Those are the results of a research done by two German researchers, a BBC (opens in new tab)report has found. Florian Grunow and Niklaus Schiess presented their findings at the Chaos Communication Congress last Sunday.

The system resembles OS X and does a good job mimicking it, the researchers say, but the OS goes a step further – any file uploaded to the system via USB or any other storage device can get watermarked. That way the state can track the file’s movement from machine to machine, and can even delete it at will.

What’s even more interesting, the watermarking could even be used to track users. Could be – as the researchers are not entirely sure.

"It could be that this file is your individual fingerprint and they register this fingerprint to you, and that could help them track down individual users,” Mr Grunow says.

"If you look at North Korea, Red Star resembles how the state is operating. It's pretty locked down, they focus on integrity a lot and they have mechanisms to track users."

The irony in this is that the OS was built on Linux – a free and open-source platform which can be modified at will, and was designed that way to make it as accessible as possible.

The name of the file used to hunt for suspicious files on the machine is Angae – meaning mist, or fog.

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.