South Korea mandates spyware installation on teenagers’ smartphones

A law requiring the mass installation of spyware on teenagers’ smartphones suggests that the frightening level of population control exercised by its neighbours in “Best Korea” has rubbed off on the Republic’s administrators in Seoul.

The Republic of South Korea’s Communications Commission, a media regulator modeled after the United States’ FCC, now requires telecom companies and parents to ensure a monitoring app is installed whenever anyone under the age of 19 receives a new smartphone.

The measure will only slowly come into force over the next few years as it doesn’t require old smartphones be updated, although AP reports that most schools in South Korea sent out letters to parents encouraging them to install the software anyway.

One particular monitoring app called Smart Sheriff was funded and developed by the South Korean government with the declared intent of blocking children’s access to pornography.

The app, however, effectively allows parents “to monitor how long their kids use their smartphones, how many times they use apps and which websites they visit.

Some send a child’s location data to parents and issue an alert when a child searches keywords such as ‘suicide’, ‘pregnancy’ and ‘bully’ or receives messages with those words”, reports AP.

Link (The Register)

New Zealand Spied on WTO Director Candidates

New Zealand launched a covert surveillance operation targeting candidates vying to be director general of the World Trade Organization, a top-secret document reveals.

In the period leading up to the May 2013 appointment, the country’s electronic eavesdropping agency programmed an Internet spying system to intercept emails about a list of high-profile candidates from Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Mexico, and South Korea.

New Zealand’s trade minister Tim Groser was one of nine candidates in contention for the position at the WTO, a powerful international organization based in Geneva, Switzerland that negotiates trade agreements between nations. The surveillance operation, carried out by Government Communications Security Bureau, or GCSB, appears to have been part of a secret effort to help Groser win the job.

Groser ultimately failed to get the position.

A top-secret document obtained by The Intercept and the New Zealand Herald reveals how GCSB used the XKEYSCORE Internet surveillance system to collect communications about the WTO director general candidates.

XKEYSCORE is run by the National Security Agency and is used to analyze billions of emails, Internet browsing sessions and online chats that are vacuumed up from about 150 different locations worldwide. GCSB has gained access to XKEYSCORE because New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes surveillance alliance alongside the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.

Link (The Intercept)

Stephen Kim Spoke to a Reporter. Now He’s in Jail. This Is His Story.

ON THE MORNING of June 11, 2009, James Rosen stepped inside the State Department, scanned his building badge and made his way to the Fox News office in the busy press room on the second floor. It was going to be a hectic day. Like other reporters working the phones that morning, Rosen was looking for fresh news about the latest crisis with North Korea.

Two weeks earlier, North Korea had conducted a nuclear detonation that showed the rest of the world it possessed a functioning bomb. The United Nations was on the verge of a formal condemnation, but no one at the U.N. or inside the U.S. government knew how North Korea’s unpredictable regime would respond and whether things might escalate toward war.

Rosen called Stephen Kim, a State Department expert on rogue nations and weapons of mass destruction. Kim, a U.S. citizen who was born in South Korea, spoke fluent Korean and had worked at one of America’s nuclear-weapons labs. He probably knew more about what was going on in Pyongyang than almost anyone else in the building.

The call, according to metadata collected by the FBI, lasted just half a minute, but soon afterward Kim called Rosen and they talked for nearly a dozen minutes. After that conversation, they left the building at roughly the same time, then spoke once more on the phone after they both returned.

A classified report on North Korea had just begun circulating, and Kim was among the restricted number of officials with clearance to read it. He logged onto a secure computer, called up the report at 11:27 a.m., and phoned Rosen 10 minutes later. A few minutes past noon, he left the building again, and a minute later Rosen followed. The destruction of Kim’s life would center on the question of what the two men discussed during that brief encounter outside the State Department.

Link (The Intercept)