Even by North Korean standards, the DPRK's Ullim tablet is creepily surveillant

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/05/01/red-flag-and-trace-viewer.html

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DPRK’s Ullim table is creepily surveillant

Something seems wrong here


I came here expecting cool spy furniture and was disappointed :cry:


Theresa May must be salivating over this.


@doctorow a TABLE is surveilling us? Here and on the main site.

ETA fixed thanks!

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Wait a sec. How many North Koreans are able to afford tablets, even crappy locked-down ones?

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The Üllim table is the worst product you can buy from the IK(OR)EA catalog.


read the report for answers.

Most farmers at least have a TV, a Notel, and recorder at home. Many of them also buy the small Chinese- made, 12-volt TVs as well. Due to lack of electricity, a lot of people use the 250 Chinese yuan solar battery charger. Despite intensive crackdowns, people continue to watch South Korean and Chinese movies.

  • Male, 46, Hamkyongbukdo, Manager at a collective farm, Left NK 2015

There’s an elite class called the “Donju” that keeps the Kims in power and which have a lifestyle that ranges from Western middle class to Western super wealthy. Presumably they are the target.


Amateurs. Our creepy surveillance is so much more sophisticated. In fact, our creepy everything is better, because Capitali$m!

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2.5 m mobile phone subscribers.


In communist DPRK, tablet jailbreaks you? No I guess it just continues to jail you…

If anyone’s interested, the full talk is here:

At first i was confused if the “Ullim” in this article is the same as the “Woolim” tablet being presented…then they began with an explanation about how they struggled to figure out how to write the tablet name in latin characters which was entertaining.

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I haven’t watched the video (yet) but I’m not sure how this is possible. Korean is pretty simple to Romanize.

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I’d suspect it’s just the result of differing romanisation schemes. I’m not familiar with Korean romanisation, but looking over the extant schemes, I think ‘Ullim’ is probably the one that fits under the Revised Romanisation of Korean (the official one in South Korea), while ‘Woolim’ looks like something a bit ad-hoc based perhaps on the Yale romanisation.


The distinction between “surveillance in the service of targeted advertising” and “surveillance in the service of targeted targeting” is obviously not one to be minimized; but, architecturally, this looks like a feature set that would be completely unremarkable in a western market consumer electronics widget.

Default deny and application whitelists come standard on iOS and Android(though the latter normally allows you to switch to default-allow); and both OSX and Windows have been flirting more intensely with the idea of late.

The DRM granularity applied to documents is substantially stricter than you’d see in mass market applications(it isn’t conceptually different from what, say, Stefik was proposing at Xerox PARC back in the 90s; it’s fairly similar to what you can do with something like Microsoft Rights Management Services(I always wonder if someone in Redmond smiles when they think about how they acronym-collided their DRM system with one Richard Stallman…); and it’s markedly less sophisticated than something like AACS; but RMS is almost exclusively enterprise intranet/fileserver stuff; and AACS is applied to a limited number of commecially produced BD-ROMs, not all files; attempts to lock down everything haven’t been commercially successful).

Again, the fact that team DPRK is not at all unlikely to kill you in some theatrically unpleasant way makes a real difference; but their technical approach appears to be a quite ordinary application of widely used DRM mechanisms; along with some of the ‘traitor tracing’(their use of the term is presumably a bit more literal) oriented approaches that have been widely explored in designing DRM systems, trying to keep Oscar screeners off bittorrent, etc. but which haven’t done so well in terms of consumer acceptance.

It’s really not too comforting that, between a desire to push personalized ad impressions and constant paranoia about keeping pirates away from the precious ‘premium content’, authoritiarian hellhole grade tech is really quite unremarkable as a consumer electronics feature.

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