Google Earth Used To Pinpoint North Korean Labor Camps

Google’s Eric Schmidt planned to visit North Korea, did just that, and returned days later to say the country needs to embrace an open Internet. Seeing how Google Earth was used in order to pinpoint North Korean labor camps, we’re not entirely sure if the country would be all for an open Internet if they ever discover their camps have been ousted.

A combination of human rights activists and bloggers used Google Earth together to highlight dozens of prison camps hidden within North Korea secretive country. The Google Earth map highlights a number of guard posts, shacks, compounds and possible locations for prisoners, which human rights groups estimate there to be as many as 250,000 political prisoners. Coal mines and crude burial grounds have also been highlighted on the map.

It’s incredible what Google Earth has been capable of in just last year alone as we were able to take a virtual voyage of the Titanic and even clear landmines with its help, but until North Korea decides to open its grip to allow for those outside of the country to enter it as freely as any other, then unfortunately there’s not much Google Earth users can do with with layouts for North Korean labor camps.

Source: Ubergizmo

Google’s Eric Schmidt and His Daughter Report On North Korean Trip

Perhaps it’s not quite the same level of importance as President Nixon’s famous visit to China, but Eric Schmidt’s journey to North Korea this month alongside New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson certainly evokes the image of the West reaching east to a nation that has been closed off from most parts of the world for a long time.

Google’s Schmidt is back home now, and both he and his daughter Sophie (who accompanied her old man on the trip), have posted updates on their travels. His is brief and focused, and hers is lengthy and wide-ranging.

Streets with almost no vehicular traffic

Streets with almost no vehicular traffic

The senior Schmidt noted that he was in Pyongyang to discuss the “free and open Internet”, which would ostensibly connect the Hermit Kingdom to the rest of the world for the first time in decades. According to Schmidt, Internet technology in Korea is limited, but there does exist a 3G network (2100MHz, based on SMS), but users can’t use it for data on their phones there.

They also found that there is a (supervised) Internet as well as a private Intranet that is linked with the country’s universities. Basically, the government, military, and universities are connected, but the general public doesn’t really have meaningful free Internet access.

From Schmidt’s post, we infer that he was clear on the following when speaking to Korean government officials:

    Once the internet starts in any country, citizens in that country can certainly build on top of it, but the government has to do one thing: open up the Internet first. They have to make it possible for people to use the Internet, which the government of North Korea has not yet done. It is their choice now, and in my view, it’s time for them to start, or they will remain behind.

Sophie Schmidt’s post is actually far more interesting. She gives the color commentary, as it were, and it’s fascinating. For example, the nine-person delegation left their phones and laptops behind in China, because they were told that the devices would be confiscated upon arrival in North Korea and would be returned, but not unmolested.

Lots of staring, not much working at the e-Library

Lots of staring, not much working at the e-Library

There was no heat inside any of the buildings, so even as officials were showing off their best technology in some lab or library, everyone was freezing and could see their breath. Everyone was very friendly, but they were told that every room and vehicle they would be in for the duration of their trip was bugged. There are very few cars outside of the city center, so people could more or less walk down the middle of the street, but there was no street-level commerce to take advantage of the foot traffic. Trucks roamed the streets blaring propaganda over loudspeakers, though. Commuters using the Metro apparently always carry flashlights because the power cuts out all the time. They visited an e-library, but Sophie noted that most of the dozens of people sitting at the computers weren’t actually doing much more than staring at the screens.

On the Metro, where power is sporadic

On the Metro, where power is sporadic

Both posts are well worth a read, whether you’re curious about the present and future of North Korean technology or are merely interested in peeking behind the North Korean veil (as much as that is possible).

Source: HotHardware

Student Expelled From Montreal College After Finding ‘Sloppy Coding’ That Compromised Security of 250,000 Students Personal Data

A student has been expelled from Montreal’s Dawson College after he discovered a flaw in the computer system used by most Quebec CEGEPs, one which compromised the security of over 250,000 students’ personal information.

Ahmed Al-Khabaz, a 20-year-old computer science student at Dawson and a member of the school’s software development club, was working on a mobile app to allow students easier access to their college account when he and a colleague discovered what he describes as “sloppy coding” in the widely used Omnivox software which would allow “anyone with a basic knowledge of computers to gain access to the personal information of any student in the system, including social insurance number, home address and phone number, class schedule, basically all the information the college has on a student.”

“I saw a flaw which left the personal information of thousands of students, including myself, vulnerable,” said Mr. Al-Khabaz. “I felt I had a moral duty to bring it to the attention of the college and help to fix it, which I did. I could have easily hidden my identity behind a proxy. I chose not to because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong.”

After an initial meeting with Director of Information Services and Technology François Paradis on Oct. 24, where Mr. Paradis congratulated Mr. Al-Khabaz and colleague Ovidiu Mija for their work and promised that he and Skytech, the makers of Omnivox, would fix the problem immediately, things started to go downhill.

Two days later, Mr. Al-Khabaz decided to run a software program called Acunetix, designed to test for vulnerabilities in websites, to ensure that the issues he and Mija had identified had been corrected. A few minutes later, the phone rang in the home he shares with his parents.

“It was Edouard Taza, the president of Skytech. He said that this was the second time they had seen me in their logs, and what I was doing was a cyber attack. I apologized, repeatedly, and explained that I was one of the people who discovered the vulnerability earlier that week and was just testing to make sure it was fixed. He told me that I could go to jail for six to twelve months for what I had just done and if I didn’t agree to meet with him and sign a non-disclosure agreement he was going to call the RCMP and have me arrested. So I signed the agreement.”

The agreement prevented Mr. Al-Kabaz from discussing confidential or proprietary information he found on Skytech servers, or any information relating to Skytech, their servers or how he accessed them. The agreement also prevented Mr. Al-Kabaz from discussing the existence of the non-disclosure pact itself, and specified that if his actions became public he would face legal consequences.

When reached for comment Mr. Taza acknowledged mentioning police and legal consequences, but denied having made any threats, and suggested that Mr. Al-Khabaz had misunderstood his comments.

“All software companies, even Google or Microsoft, have bugs in their software,” said Mr. Taza. “These two students discovered a very clever security flaw, which could be exploited. We acted immediately to fix the problem, and were able to do so before anyone could use it to access private information.”

Taza explained that he was quite pleased with the work the two students did identifying problems, but the testing software Mr. Al-Khabaz ran to verify the system was fixed crossed a line.

“This type of software should never be used without prior permission of the system administrator, because it can cause a system to crash. He [Al-Khabaz] should have known better than to use it without permission, but it is very clear to me that there was no malicious intent. He simply made a mistake.”

The administration of Dawson College clearly saw things differently, proceeding to expel Mr. Al-Khabaz for a “serious professional conduct issue.”

“I was called into a meeting with the co–ordinator of my program, Ken Fogel, and the dean, Dianne Gauvin,” says Mr. Al-Khabaz. “They asked a lot of questions, mostly about who knew about the problems and who I had told. I got the sense that their primary concern was covering up the problem.”

Following this meeting, the fifteen professors in the computer science department were asked to vote on whether to expel Mr. Al-Khabaz, and fourteen voted in favour. Mr. Al-Khabaz argues that the process was flawed because he was never given a chance to explain his side of the story to the faculty. He appealed his expulsion to the academic dean and even director-general Richard Filion. Both denied the appeal, leaving him in academic limbo.

“I was acing all of my classes, but now I have zeros across the board. I can’t get into any other college because of these grades, and my permanent record shows that I was expelled for unprofessional conduct. I really want this degree, and now I won’t be able to get it. My academic career is completely ruined. In the wrong hands, this breach could have caused a disaster. Students could have been stalked, had their identities stolen, their lockers opened and who knows what else. I found a serious problem, and tried to help fix it. For that I was expelled.”

Morgan Crockett, director of internal affairs and advocacy for the Dawson Student Union, agrees.

“Dawson has betrayed a brilliant student to protect Skytech management,” said Ms. Crockett. “It’s a travesty that Ahmad’s academic future has been compromised just so that Dawson and Skytech could save face. If they had any sense of decency, they would reinstate Ahmad into [the] computer science [program], refund the financial aid debt he has incurred as a result of his expulsion and offer him a full public apology “

Repeated calls to various members of the Dawson administration were not returned, with the college citing an inability to discuss an individual student’s case on legal and ethical grounds in a statement released by their communications department.

Source: National Post

RIM Considering Selling Its Hardware Production Arm, Post BlackBerry 10 Launch

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins

RIM CEO Thorsten Heins

Research In Motion is considering selling its hardware production arm after the launch of BlackBerry 10, as one of a number of potential actions. RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said that a strategic review could lead towards the sale, or potentially offering licenses for its software to other manufacturers, opening the door to non-RIM BlackBerry devices in the future.

In an interview with Die Welt, Heins confirmed the company was mulling over various courses of action it could take. When asked about licensing its software in a similar manner to how Microsoft licenses out its Windows Phone OS, Heins said that such a thing could only take place after their own products are released. “Before you license the software, you must show that the platform has a large potential,” said Heins, who also claimed the delay for BlackBerry 10 was due to the company building a platform “that is future-proof for the next ten years.” He also suggested that BlackBerry 10 could be used in devices other than smartphones, such as in cars and other vehicular systems.

The perception that BlackBerry was a tool for business was also attacked by Heins, referring to large consumer markets in Indonesia, South Africa, and the UK. While BlackBerry 10 will be launching globally, Heins will be looking at the less developed mobile markets for growth, as opposed to the US and Europe, which the company hopes will more than recoup the 1 million users that left the BlackBerry platform between the second and third quarters, leaving it currently at 79 million.

RIM’s most recent financial results saw revenues fall 5 percent to $2.7 billion, and an adjusted net loss of $114 million. The launch of BlackBerry 10 will see the company increase its marketing spending, and expects to still have an operating loss by the time the fourth quarter results are released.

Source: Electronista