A look at RedStar OS 3.0 – North Korea’s Operating System

I recently stumbled upon a copy of RedStar OS, which appears to be a RHEL-based server distribution developed by North Korea. Version 2.5 was initially purchased and reviewed by a Russian student studying abroad, and a user by the name of slipstream uploaded version 3.0 (server) to TPB in mid-2014.

Several reports portray it as a tool to monitor web usage by the regime, and while I don’t doubt that, it seems unnecessary to repackage an operating system to do so. It seems more likely that it’s a symbol of sovereignty and independence from Windows (made in USA). Since North Korea’s internet is a giant class A network (10.76.1.0/22), any reporting software would likely try to report to an otherwise “internal” network. For example, the browser packaged with the OS has its homepage set to 10.76.1.11. A quick Wireshark analysis didn’t reveal anything immediately suspicious, but I’ve yet to dig into that fully.

On the surface, it’s a pretty hollow clone of RHEL using KDE desktop. The directory structure is a cross between OSX and *nix, as is the overall feel of the desktop environment. Applications

It comes with a couple of standard applications – a calculator, notepad, contact book, etc., as well as QuickTime and Naenera Browser (a Firefox clone). As Naenera (“my country”) is also the name of the official web portal, and that most citizens can’t access the “international internet”, the two might as well be synonymous.

You can see the public-facing Naenera at http://www.naenara.com.kp/en/, but be aware that they’ve been known to inject malware on some of their public-facing sites.

naenera

It’s also interesting to note there’s a CHM (compiled HTML) viewer. This is typically used for software documentation, and very well may be the case here. I’d be interested to see if this is utilized for something akin to Cuba’s Paquetes, downloading parts of the Kwangmyong, or something altogether different. (There is an empty “Sites” folder in the user’s home directory)

chm-viewr

There’s an OpenOffice clone, called Sogwang Office.

Sogwang Office Screenshot

It also has this music composition program, UnBangUI:

unbangui

The mail program doesn’t have any clear way to add an email account, but does prevent you from checking mail until you’ve added one.

email

The software center only allows importing from /media. There is a repository of extra applications that’s offered on a second CD (the Russian site says the extra CD costs about twice what the original OS costs), and I haven’t started to dig through that yet.

software-manager

In the “System Update” area, the Settings dialog shows a location for a URL and proxy, but I’m not sure it’s usable.

swmanager

Getting Root

Interestingly, the user isn’t added to sudoers and the root account is disabled. Fortunately, this is trivial to bypass, since someone “overlooked” the permissions in /etc/udev/rules.d. If you’re looking for a terminal shortcut, you won’t find it – you’ll have to press Alt+F2, then run konsole to get a shell.

That's convenient!
How convenient!

Once you’ve done that, fire up vi and create /tmp/freedom, or whatever you’d like to call it.

freedom

 

Now, open up that file in /etc/udev/rules.d and call /tmp/freedom via a RUN expression:

Don't forget to "chmod +x /tmp/freedom"
Don’t forget to “chmod +x /tmp/freedom”!

Now that that’s taken care of, you’ll need to refresh the udev rules. In VirtualBox, this worked simply by taking a snapshot, but you might have to reboot.

Enabling English on RedStar OS

Once you’re back up and running, you’ll likely want to enable a language other than Korean. While some reports state that Korean is the only language on the system, this isn’t true. It’s just that Korean is selected by default. Now that you have sudo superpowers, this can be done easily with sed: (obviously,for a language other than US English, use the appropriate locale code)

sed -i 's/ko_KP/en_US/g' /etc/sysconfig/i18n

sed -i 's/ko_KP/en_US/g' /usr/share/config/kdeglobals

Log out, and you should see the login screen in English:

afterlang

That’s it! You should now be able to browse around the OS relatively easily. I’ll post some interesting findings later, once I’ve had an opportunity to dig through it more.

 

A look at RedStar OS 3.0 – North Korea’s Operating System

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