1 January 2015

State-approved screensavers

29 December 2014

State-approved screensavers, shared email addresses and why you must write Kim Jong Un's name in a font 20pc bigger: Fascinating glimpse at computing in North Korea as state blames U.S. for THIRD net shut down 'in revenge for Sony hack' 

Only 1,000 computers are connected to the internet in North Korea - and those are reserved for trusted members of the elite 

It has its own operating system - a rip-off of that used on Mac computers - called Red Star with state-approved wallpapers 

Population can access the intranet - which spews out propaganda - and automatically makes names of leaders 20pc bigger than other words 

North Korea has blamed the US for the third shut down of its internet and 3g network in a week as the cyber war between the two countries over the Sony hack raged on. 

But the apparent reprisal attacks on the secretive state has prompted the Western world to ask what effect it had on the people and services of North Korea.

The answer is simply not much. Very few of its citizens are connected to the internet in a country where the regime fiercely control any outside influence for fear of sparking dissent.

But MailOnline has been given a fascinating glimpse into the technology of North Korea captured during five years of visits from 2008 to 2013.

They reveal a country wrestling with the need for the knowledge the World Wide Web offers, outright propaganda and the desire to its subjugated citizens in their place.

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Not for your eyes: In this picture, taken in 2010, officials barred anyone from removing the kitsch cover on the computer

Big Brother is watching you: Workers go about their business with their leaders keeping a close eye on them

Solidarity: Some companies uses internet but everybody uses the same email address (pictured left). This North Korean girl (right) asked to use the photograhper's iPad

The mysterious blackouts hit after the US warned of a retaliation against North Korea's capital city's alleged hacking of Sony Pictures. The latest, On Saturday, came after the North Korean government called President Obama 'a monkey living in a tropical forest' in a racist rant against the United States.

The FBI has accused the rogue state of launching the crippling cyber-attack on Sony for producing The Interview, a comedy that depicts a fictional plot to assassinate the North's leader Kim Jong-Un.

Security experts say North Korea's internet infrastructure is so skeletal that even amateurs - or a simple glitch - could have brought it clattering down.

Most ordinary people in North Korea have no access to the internet and it is believed there are only 1,000 IP addresses - the label assigned to each device that uses the Internet - and these are reserved for trusted VIPs, the military, some universities, libraries - and presumably the now notorious Unit 121 of 'cyber warrior' group.

This compares to 112 million in South Korea or 1.5 billion in the U.S.

'A large city block in London or New York would have more IP addresses than North Korea,' said Ofer Gayer, a security researcher at California-based Incapsula Inc.

The technology can often be seen in the propaganda material such as this school poster (pictured left). Some 20,000 young koreans (right) sit facing the spectators at the Korean Mass Games and flip coloured cards to form animated images

This man, who has access to a computer, acts as a 'human Google search engine'

There are believed to be about a million computers in The North and everyone who owns a computer must register it. 

They are mainly available at educational and state institutions - but most lack any connection to the world wide web.

So USB keys and small hard drives that have made their way across the border have become an huge source of information of the world outside country.

And anyone with a working computer becomes a magnet. In 2009, North Koreans would visit a 'study house' in the capital Pyongyang and ask a man with a computer a question.

The human Google search engine would then come back with an answer 24 hours later.

In the Grand People's Study House in Pyongyang, officials reckon there is room for 30 million books to be stored, but only a couple of thousand books are available.

North Korean people can access a CD library and hear the recordings on big ghetto blasters, but unsurprisingly the choice of CDs is not massive.

You can listen to the radio, or watch TV too but only the national channel because the tuner is also blocked on the local frequency.

The country has its own desktop operating system called Red Star, and applications are believed to include OpenOffice, games and an engineering calculator, according to Michael Grothaus, a senior writer at Co.Labs

It is claimed that during the early 2000s the regime swapped its Windows based operating system for one that looked remarkably like the Mac OSX - proving that even dictators fell for the allure of Jobs' Apple. 

All for show: When Mr Lafforgue asked to see what this girl was doing with her computer, she sat and started to type, but there was no electricity

Connected: Citizens using computers at the Grand People's Study House, Pyongyang in 2010

And Red Star comes with a state-approved folder of desktop wallpapers, including a snowy North Korean countryside littered with artillery pieces peaking through the foliage.

Even though very few of its inhabitants have any access to a computer, the population is allowed access to an intranet - a countrywide system that is cut off from the rest of the world - called Kwangmyong, which translates as Bright Star.

But everyone using it is monitored by the authorities and even though guides will tell foreign visitors that it is the internet, you cannot connect to any foreign website. 

State-sponsored screen saver: This image, which appears to be photoshopped, depicts the deadly North Korean countryside

Desktop wallpaper folder: Pyongyang lit up at night, although there are often power outages and rolling blackouts

Big man: Leaders names appear 20 per cent larger than other text which is automatically coded into the script

The service is free but it is thought that less than 10 per cent of residents have used it.

It is estimated there are between 1,000 and 5,000 websites on the intranet, although most of the content is news propaganda, educational and reference materials, and archives, according to Co.Labs.

Coding also means every time North Korea's leader's names are published, they appear 20 per cent larger than the other text on the page. 

The web is also a good way to promote the north Korean ideology. kcna.kp (Korean Central News Agency) website is the major source of information spread to the world, focusing on the activities of Kim Jong Un.

Although some companies use email, there will only be one shared address for all of the employees, so there's no privacy at all.

More than two million use mobile phones but almost all lack internet connectivity or overseas call features, according to defectors and experts. 

Intranet Computer Room at the Grand People Study House, Pyongyang, North Korea. Citizens are allowed access to the country's intranet where they can view strictly controlled educational materials

Computer Room In Samjiyon Children’s Palace where children learn how to use the technology and can access material about their leaders

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