Russian Online Disinformation Targeting Veterans Has No Proven Effect

This sounds like much to do about nothing:

Russian trolls and others aligned with the Kremlin are injecting disinformation into streams of online content flowing to American military personnel and veterans on Twitter and Facebook, according to an Oxford University study released Monday.

The researchers found fake or slanted news from Russian-controlled accounts are mixing with a wide range of legitimate content consumed by veterans and active-duty personnel in their Facebook and Twitter news feeds. These groups were found to be reading and sharing articles on conservative political thought, articles on right-wing politics in Europe and writing touting various conspiracy theories.  [Washington Post]

Sounds scary right that the US military is being influenced by Russian misinformation?  Here is what the study really found out:

The kind of information shared by and with veterans and active-duty personnel span a wide range, with liberal political content also common, though not as common as conservative political content. The online military community, the researchers found, also shared links about sustainable agriculture, mental health issues such as addiction, and conspiracy theories.

No one subject dominated the online content flowing among these communities, but the largest individual categories dealt with military or veteran matters. Russian disinformation was a smaller but significant and persistent part of the overall information flow.

So basically the Russian disinformation was irrelevant.  This article could not even cite one piece of disinformation that had any effect on veterans.  The Washington Post even headlines this story with “Russian operatives used Twitter and Facebook to target veterans and military personnel, study says”.  The Washington Post could have more accurately titled this article “Study Finds Veterans Follow Military and Veterans Matters Online; Russian Disinformation Has No Proven Effect”.

The bottom line is that the Internet is filled with disinformation and people need to use critical thinking to sift through what is real and what is not.

Russia Opens New Internet Line to North Korea After US Cyberattack

The Russians are at it again:

A major Russian telecommunications company appears to have begun providing an Internet connection to North Korea. The new link supplements one from China and will provide back-up to Pyongyang at a time the US government is reportedly attacking its Internet infrastructure and pressuring China to end all business with North Korea.

The connection, from TransTeleCom, began appearing in Internet routing databases at 09:08 UTC on Sunday, or around 17:38 Pyongyang time on Sunday evening. Internet routing databases map the thousands of connections between telecom providers and enable computers to figure out the best route to a destination.  (…….)

On Saturday, The Washington Post reported that US Cyber Command has been carrying out denial of service attacks against North Korean hackers affiliated with the Reconnaissance General Bureau. The attacks attempt to overwhelm their computers and the Internet connection with traffic making them slow or impossible to use.

The US cyber attack was due to end on Saturday, reported the Post. That means the new Russian connection went online just after the US Cyber Command attack ended.  [38 North]

You can read more at the link.

North Korea Accidentally Opens Outside Access to Their Internal Intranet

I wonder how many people in the Kim regime even use this limited Internet service?  I also wonder what memes they post on their social network service?

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Someone in North Korea is in a lot of trouble.

The secretive state somehow accidentally opened access to all the websites hosted on its servers, revealing that it only has 28 registered domains.

On Monday at around 10 p.m. Pacific time, North Korea’s nameserver – that contains information about all of the “.kp” websites – was misconfigured, allowing it to be accessed. This meant Matthew Bryant, a researcher, was able to access the domain names and some of the file data about the site.

Bryant dumped all of this on Github – a site that hosts computer code. It’s the first real look into the secret online world of the hermit state North Korea.

Some of the websites take a long time to load and some are inaccessible. Among the 28 sites listed is one called Air Koryo, a flight booking site, and one named Friend, presumably some sort of social network.

One website that has always been accessible outside of North Korea is the Korean Central News Agency – the state-run propaganda site.

Reddit page lists all of the websites discovered and below are some examples of the sites.  [CNBC]

Should Individuals Have Right to Have Their Names Scrubbed from the Internet?

We have all probably made online posts we regret and would later delete.  What if the service you left the posting on would not delete it?  In Korea it may become law that postings that people wanted removed have to be deleted.  Even if this does become a law it just seems like it would be extremely difficult to enforce if the content is kept on servers outside of Korea:

But it was not until 2014 that the Korea Communications Commission (KCC), a media regulation agency, took further steps to discuss the concept, following the European Court of Justice’s landmark ruling for a right to be forgotten.

The result of years of consultations came in the form of a guideline last month, which will go into effect next month. But the guideline, though much anticipated, faces controversy for its blurry standards and lack of specific directions for implementation. Still, proponents support the notion of a right to be forgotten for purposes of privacy and personal dignity.

Unlike the decision by the European Union’s top court, the KCC’s guidelines primarily concern online users’ own posts rather than articles posted by a third party, since Korean law already grants people the right to request the deletion of information by a third party if it is deemed damaging to one’s reputation. And yet the guidelines seek to expand on the right to be forgotten, since it orders Internet companies to accept removal requests in some “exceptional cases” that formerly blocked or limited the original writer’s autonomy over their content.

“People sometimes face trouble accessing and deleting their own posts for different reasons,” said Choi Yoon-jeong, director of the privacy protection and ethics division at the KCC. “For instance, when a platform bans the deletion of a post by a user who has lost his or her ID or password. The guidelines are designed to ensure users’ rights under precisely these kinds of circumstances.”  [Joong Ang Ilbo]

You can read more at the link.

Could Facebook Drones Be the Downfall of the Kim Regime?

I have for many years advocated for fighting an information war within North Korea since the early days of financing defector radio stations to broadcast into North Korea.  Challenging the Kim regime’s domestic propaganda should be a primary part of any strategy to counter North Korea.  Challenging the propaganda directly challenges the Kim regime’s legitimacy.  That is why the Kim regime has been so violently outspoken against the activities of defector groups that have launched balloons into North Korea to include even trying to assassinate the group’s primary leader, Park Sang-hak.  Recently when I read about Facebook’s new effort to use drones to give Internet access to remote areas of the world the first thing I thought of was North Korea:

Facebook started teasing its internet-beaming planes last year, but now we’re seeing one that it actually built. Pictured above is Aquila, a solar-powered, 140-foot unmanned plane that’s designed to deliver internet connectivity from altitudes of 60,000 to 90,000 feet. The UAV, which has the wingspan of a Boeing 737 and weighs roughly 880 pounds, will be able to circle a specific area for up to 90 days when deployed — a feat possible thanks to its dependence on nothing but solar energy.

The Kim regime has been very active in doing everything possible to stem the tide of outside information entering North Korea.  Excluding the border areas where most of the defectors come from, the Kim regime has been very effective with controlling information entering North Korea while expanding access to technology.  The Kim regime has expanded computer and smartphone use while simultaneously creating an its own cell phone network and Intranet to control the flow of information.  The fact that border areas can use cell phone towers in China contributes to the fact more defectors come from these areas.

Imagine if everyone in North Korea was able to access an outside information network like the border areas can do using Chinese cell phone towers?  That is what Facebook’s drones may be able to do. Facebook is not the only ones pursuing this technology; Google has their own program to provide Internet to remote areas using balloons. The drones and balloons fly at altitudes greater than any aircraft North Korea has can intercept, however right now it is unclear whether they can fly at a standoff distance greater than North Korea’s anti-aircraft missiles can target the drone or balloon with.  If the technology advances to where a drone or balloon could hover over the center of the Sea of Japan and beam Internet access into North Korea, the Kim regime would not be able to target it.  What effect over the long term would that have in North Korea if citizens could secretly access the Internet without the Kim regime knowing?

Korean Court Upholds Real Name Identification System for Internet During Election Periods

This is a tough issue to address because I like the openness the Internet provides for people to share ideas, but with all the false information passed on the Internet to influence politics in South Korea I can understand why many in Korea think this law is needed.  Anyone in Korea in 2008 can remember how crazy the madcow crisis became based off of Internet speculation and false news reports:

rok flag

The Constitutional Court ruled constitutional Thursday a law that mandates a user-identification system on news outlets during an election period, citing the fairness of the election.

While the online real-name verification legislation was abolished in 2012, the current Public Official Election Act requires Internet news sites, including news aggregators, to provide the system for users to input and verify their identities when posting articles either supporting or countering a candidate during 30 days of election campaigning.

The court said in a 5-4 vote that considering the public confidence and awareness of the Web sites, information distortion could happen instantly through the spread of rumors or propaganda.

As it does not take much time to go through the verification process and it guarantees the protection of users’ personal information, the clause does not infringe upon the freedom of speech nor the right to self-determination, the court said.  [Yonhap]

You can read more at the link.

Imports of Smartphones Surges In North Korea

North Korea may be importing these smartphones, but they are connected to North Korea’s internal Internet which still allows the regime to control what information the public can access:

North Korea’s smartphone imports from China surged to a record high last year, a sign of a growing number of people there being connected to the net, according to data released Friday.

North Korea brought in US$82.8 million worth of smartphones from China in 2014, almost double the amount recorded a year earlier, according to the Seoul-based Korea International Trade Association.

It marked the largest volume since 2007, when related data were introduced.

Imports of portable data-processing devices, including laptops, also jumped 16 percent on-year to $23 million in 2014 despite a 3-percent decline in the North’s overall imports from China in the year.

Around 10 percent of the communist nation’s 24-million residents reportedly use smartphones, with its 3G network run by Koryolink, a joint venture with an Egyptian company, Orascom Telecom. [Yonhap]

People living on border areas with China have long been secretly using cell phones off of Chinese towers so maybe some of these smartphone buyers will be doing the same thing to access the Internet as well.