A pair of German computer researchers have recently completed an investigation into North Korea's Red Star OS version 3. The home-grown OS is based on Fedora Linux and features a Mac OS X alike skin, however a lot of effort has been put in to make it a tool of the state; with unique tagging and watermarking of all user files, other user privacy invading features, and tamper-proofing of the system.
Florian Grunow and Niklaus Schiess of German IT security company ERNW GmbH spoke about the Red Star OS to Reuters before presenting their findings at the Chaos Communication Congress, a gathering of hackers and security researchers, in Hamburg yesterday.
The Guardian reports that Pyongyang's latest OS was developed to "embrace the benefits of computing and the internet while keeping a tight grip on ideas and culture". Despite being based off Fedora there's a lot of unique qualities under the bonnet, say the researchers.
Grunow commented that the Red Star OS is "definitely privacy invading. It's not transparent to the user". Furthermore such underhand shenanigans are "done stealthily and touches files you haven’t even opened," he said. One of the invasive measures in the Red Star OS is watermarking every document on a specific computer and those that are connected to it, via a USB stick, for example. It is thought that a lot of the spread of foreign media in North Korea is via USB stick/memory card so this tagging should help identify the initial sources of such data.
Another major aspect of the OS is how it is locked down against any change or tampering. The "fear driven" OS has its own encryption and if you try to change any settings such as with its virus checker or firewall "the computer will display an error message or reboot itself".
There's a couple of interesting videos looking over the Red Star OS v3 embedded below. You can download the install ISO for yourself and gain root access and English language via the links on the YouTube page where the videos are hosted.