Tuesday, December 23, 2014

North Korea's internet shutdown? So?

Whilst much of the media has parroted reports that the "DPRK's internet has been shut down", few actually specified the source for this, nor did they explain how meaningless this is without the explanation that 99.99% of the population has absolutely no internet access.

You see the DPRK's internet connection is restricted to a privileged subset of the ruling elite.   Virtually none of the DPRK's population outside Pyongyang and the Chinese border town of Sinuiju is even aware of the Internet.   A tiny proportion of the population has PCs, and the extent to which they are interconnected, it is through Kyangmyong - the local intranet which largely exists to distribute government material and approved content.  

So,  the consequences for almost everyone in the country are nil.  The consequences for a fraction of the ruling party and army elite are inconvenience.  

The authority for this is also not a DPRK source.  The Korean Central News Agency is a source for the news that the DPRK wants to present to the world, but domestically its content is quite different. Domestically, there is no awareness of the internet, although reports about Kyangmyong exist to demonstrate how technically adept the country is.  However, NKNews.Org has reported that there appears to have been a compromise of the country's external connections, although this isn't hard to do:

North Korea’s connection to the internet is relatively fragile, indicating that it would not take a particularly sophisticated attack to knock the DPRK offline.

“There’s nothing clearly evident which points to U.S. involvement … there has been talk amongst the [non-government-aligned] hacking classes of reprisals,” Frank Feinstein NK News chief technical officer said.

“This sort of thing could be pulled off by a collective or handful of individuals, rather than a state power very easily,” Feinstein added.

So a technically unsophisticated dictatorship with very few connections to the outside world,  for a system that serve the Kim family, and the top echelons of the party and military, was weakened.  

I've seen no reports noting that its brethren in the south, one of the world's most connected country's, could easily undertake such an attack.   

The real story is that the DPRK is under almost constant internet shutdown.  It is the world's least connected country, not due to poverty, but because of deliberate government policy.

Closing down its international connections, which it appears to have used to attack systems in other countries, and which are largely reserved to an elite that actively prevents the free speech and information it offers from reaching almost anyone else, is not a bad result.

The petulant man-child running the place, aping his sophisticated grand fraudster grandfather, is trying to flex his muscles to show to the military - the real source of power and threat to power - that he is up to the job.   Embarrassing a Japanese corporation in the USA over a film that pokes fun at him would have a been a top job for the Pyongyang hackers.  

In truth, he runs a country where he can't expose too many skilled young computer technicians to the technology that it can't easily access (due to sanctions) or the internet, or else they will find out a little too much about the lies told to them through school and the media - without rewarding them all very handsomely indeed, or keeping the under draconian control.

That's not a formula for building ICT capabilities to seriously take on south Korea or the USA, set aside companies that are weak in the computer security.   It should not be difficult to confine the child's ambitions.   China, on the other hand, is another story.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Murderers, thugs and cowards

Taliban, Cuba's ruling thugs and Sony Pictures respectively.

On the Pakistani Taliban, it is telling what it takes for the Pakistani Army and Government to actually take this evil group seriously and seek to wipe it out.  For previously the policy was "let" the Taliban run the north-western provinces and for all major parties to support negotiating with "moderate elements" (i.e. the ones that only murder infidels, not Muslim children).  This is why Osama Bin Laden lived in comfort in Pakistan, as the Pakistani Army had essentially appeased the local Taliban. The fact that one of Pakistan's greatest financial and military supporters over the decades, the United States, had had thousands of its citizens murdered by this outfit, was irrelevant.   Furthermore, even the attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai for daring to support the education of girls, didn't animate the misogynistic theocratically minded rent-seekers in the Pakistani government.  It has taken hundreds of children to be murdered en masse, for there to finally be some effort taken to wipe them out - as they should.

For the negotiate with the Taliban, as with ISIS, is like seeking to negotiate with the Nazis for a peace where they continue to rule over some people, or to agree with a mafia over the territory they can still bully people over, or to agree with a pedophile cabal that they can only rape children within a certain area.  It's morally bankrupt, because the only winner in a compromise between good and evil, is evil, particularly when you have the means to defeat it at little relative cost compared to letting it be.

So if there is anything positive that could ever come from hundreds of children and their teachers being murdered in cold blood, is that it turns enough Pakistanis against the Pakistani Taliban, and provides the testicular fortitude in the government and army to hunt down, and defeat every last one.   In that mission, Pakistan should have the full support of those that fear a Taliban takeover the most, including India, the United States, the UK and yes, Iran.  For, as a nuclear weapon state, Pakistan, as very flawed as it is by any measures of political and individual freedom, and more flawed as a corrupt state of pilfering mediocrities, it is nothing compared to what it would be like if ruled by the pedocidal Taliban. 

Thugs being appeased, is one way of looking at President Obama deciding to make friends with the dictatorship on his doorstep, Cuba. This is easy to be critical of, because Cuba is not introducing political or civil freedoms, and is not introducing any form of liberal democracy.  It is just freeing some political prisoners.  In exchange it gets diplomatic recognition, direct telecommunications and greater freedom of movement of Americans into Cuba.   Does it provide succour to a despicable regime?  Yes.  However,  there is little doubt to me that, on balance, this is good for freedom in Cuba.  Why?  Because the more Cubans get contact with their relatives and friends from the United States, and receive money and goods from them, the more they will understand how utterly stultifying their regime is.  The main negative of the policy will be that the key beneficiaries of any liberalisation of trade will be the thugs in charge and their families, who they will grant favours to.  

However, even if this is so, the regime's monopoly on power will not be strengthened by heightened corruption and the enrichment of an elite which gained and sustained power on the basis of everyone being equally impoverished (not that the party elite were denied privilege, but the Castro mafia is not known to be anywhere near as self-aggrandising and enriching as its ideological soul brothers in other dictatorships).   Greater contact with the outside world is a good thing, and while the trade embargo will not be removed without Congressional approval on the US side (which seems far from likely), the liberalisation that does occur, will enable Cubans to taste more of capitalism and freedom than they can at the moment.   If the trade embargo is lifted, then the regime will no longer have the excuse of the embargo for the relative poverty in the country, and more will be able to tell their stories of a derelict health system (despite how much it is lauded by leftwing activists), and how harassed they are by officials.

So, on balance, liberalising contact with Cuba is a good thing.  For it leaves restrictions on the country coming predominantly from the Cuban government side.  Yes, it looks like Obama is rewarding a dictatorship for doing little, but you must think beyond that.   Eastern Europe was undermined more by greater liberalisation of contact with the West, than by maintaining tight restrictions on it.   Cuba too will change, and on balance this is one step towards this.

Cowards.  The word to describe Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the cinema chains refusing to show The Interview.   It's astonishing, that a bunch of hackers, probably led from Pyongyang, but also likely to include some paid in China and elsewhere, can frighten a company that is part of a conglomerate with a turnover 50% greater than north Korea.

Yes.  Sony had turnover of around US$70 billion in 2014, whereas the DPRK's reported GDP (on a purchasing power parity basis) was US$40 billion in 2011.  What the hell should they be scared of?

Do they fear more cyber attacks? Well talk to banks, talk to the US IT giants that fear cyber attacks more.

Do they fear physical attacks?  Oh please.  "Team America - World Police" upset the Kim mafia when it came out, and the regime can't even control this. The DPRK has little record of engaging in international terrorism outside Asia, so it is difficult to envisage that it could convincingly pay anyone in the United States to perform such acts.  

More importantly, the film makes fun, pokes humour out of a regime that prohibits such humour. One of the first acts of any authoritarian regime is to ban parodies and comic depictions that "dishonour" its leading thugs, which of course dishonours them by doing so. 

So it is very important that this film be released and shown, and for people to go watch it and laugh. Laugh at the fat hedonistic boy king who got a fine Western education, has Western tastes, who loves NBA basketball and instead of sharing this wisdom and expanding the potential of the people he inherited from under the jackboots of his father and grandfather, he's put on a new pair himself.

His father at least didn't have the excuse of knowing as well as he does, about the outside world, for the short brat was scared of flying, so hardly travelled outside the country at all.  He proudly sacrificed hundreds of thousands of ordinary people to stay in power for fear the army would overthrow him.  

So the fat boy king is now emulating his grandfather, who is one of the great frauds of the 20th century.  He deserves to be laughed at, and Sony is doing a disservice to the people of Korea, and indeed the people of Japan threatened by north Korea, and to the USA, which stopped all of Korea being under the Kim family crime syndicate (and indeed helped transform Japan into a country that could allow Sony to be established and thrive).

So if Sony Pictures is too gutless to distribute this film - sell it - let someone with courage show it, and shame on those who refuse to do so, out of fear of a bunch of upstart north Korean kids trapped at the basement of a monument in Pyongyang (well that's where I saw banks of unexplained PCs well connected before the door was slammed shut on me).