December 26, 2017

Sending flashdrives via balloon into North Korea.

"The Flashdrives for Freedom campaign aims to show those living in the rogue state that life really is a lot, lot better on the outside.... In the South Korean city of Paju, thousands of balloons have been silently floated into the skies to catch the winds and blow over the border.... [T]he appetite for entertainment within the hermit kingdom ranges from popular films such as Titanic and music from Gangnam Style megastar Psy to news and documentaries. The content is chosen by those lucky enough to have already escaped the dictatorship...."

The Sun reports.

26 comments:

Diogenes of Sinope said...

If you are literally starving do you own a PC?

Jersey Fled said...

Sooo ...

What do you do with the flash drive if you don't even have anything to plug it into? Or even electricity half of the time?

What if it's a plot to identify more "connected" individuals by loading viruses onto their computers to identify them?

Sorry. I get this way after spending Christmas with my relatives.

gspencer said...

It's gonna take an outside agency to topple Rocket Man. The people are disarmed, a sign certain of a dictatorship. (Are you listening, lefties? Unless that's what you gun grabbers want, heh.)

Michael McClain said...

I'd think that the PC's are accessed by lower-level Government and Military personnel who might actually dislike the rampant corruption exhibited by the Elites. Of such people are revolutions made.

Quaestor said...

This is yet another delusional stunt designed to inflate the perceived self-worth of the participants. The chances that those "Flashdrives for Freedom" will contribute anything positive is virtually nil, while the chances that they will create greater suffering approaches certainty.

All legally operated computers in North Korea run a Linux-based operating system called Red Star OS, the world's most oppressive operating system, which watermarks any attached USB storage device with the time, date, IP address, and UserID which makes surreptitious filesharing a very dangerous proposition. If you're a Nork who is fortunate enough to have access to a PC, the odds are you are already a fully reliable zombie willing and eager fulfill the Rocket Man's maddest whim. The "Flashdrives for Freedom" initiative will only help smoke out the few non-zombie technology users remaining north of the 38th.

KK Kraska said...

Bottles of vitamins, canned veggies fruit meat & fish would be far more effective and useful. Just sayin'. Average Nork likely wouldn't even know what a flash drive is.

David Begley said...

Chris Buckley had a similar idea which he wrote about in "Florence of Arabia."

SDaly said...

Whoever finds one of these flashdrives, however innocent, will be immediately imprisoned and tortured. This is the dumbest scheme I've heard of.

corsair the rational pirate said...

They don't all use computers to watch the content:

Demand is so high that some Chinese companies manufacture products geared to the North Korean market. Pearson has reported on a device called the "notel," a portable media player with a USB input. Users plug two things in at once: the illicit media on a USB stick, and in case of inspection, a state-approved propaganda disc.

"Like, 'Kim Jong Il's Greatest Hits,' " Pearson says. "Should there be a knock on the door from the bowibu, which is the Gestapo, Stasi-esque institution in North Korea, you can just pull out the USB stick, open up the DVD drive and say, 'Look, I was watching this.'


NPR (yeah, I know they suck)

corsair the rational pirate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CWJ said...

Baloons and flashdrives. What a curious intersection of 18th and early 21st centuries technologies.

Rusty said...

SDaly said...
Whoever finds one of these flashdrives, however innocent, will be immediately imprisoned and tortured. This is the dumbest scheme I've heard of.

That's why they send thousands. They know most will be turned over to the authorities. Most, but not all. This is being directed to the people of the capital and the other privileged people. People who have access to DVDs and a usb port. These people are in a prison not of their own making. The real tragedy would be to be indifferent to their suffering.

Quaestor said...

Apparently the chief organizer of "Flashdrives for Freedom" is a North Korean defector. Fake defections intended to confuse the enemy abroad or undermine his espionage efforts at home is a very old trick. South Korea's NIS needs to take a very hard look at the putative defectors connect with "Flashdrives for Freedom", and especially at Alex Gladstein whose naivety is considerably beyond creditability.

Quaestor said...

The real tragedy would be to be indifferent to their suffering.

None of the critics of "Flashdrives for Freedom" is indifferent to suffering in North Korea, which is why we're anxious not to increase it. Perhaps Rusty has missed the fact that computers, tablets, and smartphones in North Korea run an operating system that watermarks files with data identifying the user.

"Flashdrives for Freedom" is such a stupid idea virtually guaranteed to reduce the number of resistance-minded North Koreans and swell the labor camp population one cannot help but surmise that it was born in the mind of Lil Kim's chief of internal security.

Ann Althouse said...

The idea that "Titanic" and "Gangnam Style" would make people want to risk everything to get more of that is just so absurd. I think if I were living inside the NK bubble, brought up with all of its propaganda, "Titanic" and "Gangnam Style" would make me think the outside world is spiritually sick and unable to to use its wealth to good purpose.

Actually, that's what "Titanic" and "Gangnam Style" make me think anyway.

Boxty said...

I hope this is a CIA plot to spread a Stuxnet-style virus into the North Korean computer network. Otherwise, it's kind of dumb.

Bad Lieutenant said...

would make people want to risk everything to get more of that is just so absurd. I think if I were living inside the NK bubble,


Curious: do you think, or feel, that you have any insight into the psychology of anyone whose initials are not A.A.? You've never had anything worse happen to you in your privileged life than being on the losing end of tickle fights. What would you know about the appeal of anything to anyone, besides getting a law degree in Wisconsin?

Do you know that the Soviets used to show "decadent Western trash" to illustrate the problems of capitalism, the Negro problem, etc., and what the Russian people noticed was that even the blacks had cars, new clothes and shoes, food in the fridges, goods in the stores?

TL,DR: What do you know?

That said, it does seem the use case for USB sticks is marginal. Easier because they are so light; you would need a much bigger balloon to send canned goods or Liberator pistols.

Larry J said...

Jersey Fled said...
Sooo ...

What if it's a plot to identify more "connected" individuals by loading viruses onto their computers to identify them?


I work with a lot of cyber security people but that isn't my specialty. Our people help government and private businesses tighten their system security. Part of their services is legal "white hat" hacking to test security. They've never failed to break into a system, although one particularly well ran system took a few weeks. Some of their favorite tricks to get inside someone else's system include sending malware connected to email messages and leaving infected flash drives outside of their targets. It seldom fails that someone will put the infected drive into a company system. After that, the rest is easy. Once they break into the system, they work with the company's IT staff to tighten their defenses and make it harder for anyone who successfully does break into their system. No matter how well protected a system is, sooner or later someone will mess up and compromise their security. The real trick is to detect when it happens and quickly take corrective action.

Quaestor said...

Liberator pistols — another harebrained idea that contributed virtually nothing to the war effort. In case anyone here doesn't know the story, the Liberator was an extremely crude single-shot .45 caliber firearm intended by its inventors to be infiltrated into Nazi-occupied Europe. They were to fall by parachute to be recovered by the oppressed civilians of France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Norway — anywhere within range of Allied aircraft — as a means to create a resistance army behind German lines. To overcome language barriers each Liberator came with a wordless illustrated instruction sheet showing how to load, fire, and clear the weapon (with a stick shoved down the barrel!). It was hoped the recipient of a Liberator would use it to kill a German soldier and then capture his weapon and ammunition. Records show that at least 1,000,000 Liberators were manufactured and test-fired (yes, each and every one was proof-tested!) at the cost equivalent of a heavy cruiser, and yet there is no evidence that even one was ever parachuted into Europe. A few did make into the Philippines, however, where they contributed far less than their weight in ammo would have.

tcrosse said...

Send them cooking shows. There must be cooking shows on South Korean TV.

Fandor said...

Ann, the term you're looking for to describe the MAISEL SERIES is "DRAMADEY". The word was used to described MOONLIGHTING with Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd back in the 80s.
Love the show. Looking forward to season 2.

DrMaturin said...

According to Korean-American scholar Jieun Baek North Koreans are far more knowledgable about the outside world than most Americans believe. Numerous North Koreans possess devices that can read these flash drives and as a consequence have access to western, and especially South Korean movies, TV and books. Much of this is smuggled in through China and sold at black markets that the government tolerates, although being caught watching these programs is dangerous.

https://www.amazon.com/North-Koreas-Hidden-Revolution-Transforming/dp/B01M9ISS6B/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1514308854&sr=8-1&keywords=north+korea%27s+hidden+revolution

Rusty said...

Quaestor
Your assumption is that nobody in NK is smart enough to hack their system. never underestimate your average teenagers ingenuity when it comes to doing things 'forbidden'.

Quaestor said...

You assume most North Korean PC users are also administrators of the machines they use. They are not. Nor does the Red Star OS recognize the su prefix. Hacking a system without root privileges is difficult, bordering on impossible.

FleetUSA said...

Just remember a "war" is conducted on many levels. Hence, this is just part of it. Imagine if 5% hit the target and then are passed on among friends. They also include news and other information not just movie and music.

I saw a documentary about how many have secret computers. Also, I'm sure the upper class have them and yearn for a better life too.

Anonymous said...

I saw a documentary about how many have secret computers.