According to a cybersecurity report published recently the ruling class of North Korea has in the recent past abandoned social media platforms based in the West such as Instagram and Facebook. Additionally the ruling class in the hermit kingdom has increased the use of tools which are used to cloak internet activity. Rather than use sites based in western countries the elite in North Korea are using services based in China such as Baidu, Tencent and Alibaba according to Recorded Future, a cyber intelligence firm based in the United States.
Per Recorded Future the ruling class in North Korea increased the use of such services as Tor and virtual private networks by around 1,200% between last year in December and mid-March this year for the purposes of obfuscating internet activity. To prepare the report Recorded Future conducted an analysis of internet protocol ranges that are associated with the reclusive country as well as other information that was open-sourced.
According to the report’s author and Recorded Future’s strategic threat development director, Priscilla Moriuchi, the efforts by the North Korean elite to mask their internet activity was evidence that the reclusive state was not being completely transparent prior to the planned meeting between the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un and the president of the United States, Donald Trump. The focus of the meeting is denuclearization.
Per Moriuchi statements to the effect that North Korea is more open now were grossly inaccurate and the online behavior of the country’s elite has proved otherwise.
“It is a difference of data vs. diplomacy, or action against words,” Moriuchi, who is an ex-intelligence official and an expert on Asia-based cyber threats, said.
In North Korea access to the internet is strictly limited. Though there are no statistics on what percentage of the 25-million strong North Korean population enjoys global internet access, it is estimated that only a tiny fraction, less than one percent, have access.
According to Moriuchi the changes the country’s elite have effected in their online behavior could be as a result of the fact that there is increased attention and research on North Korea’s use of the internet by foreign governments and organizations. Additionally it could be a consequence of a strict enforcement following an official ban on social media services from the west in order to enhance the online security among the senior leadership of the reclusive state.