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UN Human Rights Accuses North Korean Government of Starving its People While Building up Military Power

U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival

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starving, military power
FILE - A man stands among sacks of wheat on the banks of Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, January 29, 2014. VOA

The U.N. human rights office has accused the North Korean government of starving its people while building up its military power. It finds people are trapped in a system of endemic corruption and repression, which keeps them mired in lifelong poverty and deprivation.

The report is based on first-hand accounts of more than 200 escapees interviewed in South Korea during the past two years. Witnesses say North Korea’s social and economic system is based on the pervasive practice of bribing officials. U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival.

“The constant threat of arrest and prosecution provides State officials with a powerful means to extort money and other favors from people desperate to avoid detention in inhumane conditions,” she said. “In addition, the living conditions and treatment of detainees can also depend on the payment of bribes.”

poverty, military power
The report finds nearly 11 million people, or more than 43 percent of the population, are undernourished and in a perpetual state of hunger. Pixabay

The report finds nearly 11 million people, or more than 43 percent of the population, are undernourished and in a perpetual state of hunger. While people are scrounging around for food and other basic necessities, the report says huge resources continue to be spent on the military.

Official figures put the percentage of the national budget allocated to the military at between 14 and 16 percent. But Hurtado says estimates by non-governmental organizations believe that sum could be as high as 50 percent.

She tells VOA her agency acknowledges the importance of U.S. talks with North Korea in efforts to try to reduce its nuclear arsenal. But she says human rights have to be at the core of these negotiations.

poverty, north korea
U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival. Pixabay

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“It is clear that all the money, all the energy, all the brains that are used to focus on nuclear issues and nuclear development, if it would be focused on raising the standard of living of the population, the situation would be a different one,” she said. The report recommends drastic reforms in the criminal code and, especially in the establishment of the rule of law in North Korea.

In assessing the findings, Human Rights Chief Michele Bachelet says people must not be arrested, detained, prosecuted or subjected to extortion. This, simply for trying to acquire an adequate standard of living. (VOA)

Next Story

North Korea Hackers Target Think Tanks, Activists; Reveals Microsoft

By using forwarding rules, Thallium can continue to see email received by the victim, even after the victim's account password is updated

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microsoft, xbox
FILE - A sign for Microsoft is seen on a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, March 18, 2017. VOA

Microsoft has revealed that a North Korea-linked hacker group has stolen the sensitive personal information of government employees, think tanks, university staff members, members of organizations focused on world peace and human rights, as well as individuals who work on nuclear proliferation-related issues.

Microsoft has now gained control of 50 domains that the group uses to conduct its operations, the company said on Monday.

With this action, the sites can no longer be used to execute attacks.

A court case against the hacker group, called Thallium, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, resulted in a court order enabling Microsoft to take control of the web domains, Microsoft Customer Security and Trust Vice President Tom Burt said in a blog post.

Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) and the Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) has been tracking and gathering information on Thallium, monitoring the group’s activities to establish and operate a network of websites, domains and Internet-connected computers.

This network was used to target victims and then compromise their online accounts, infect their computers, compromise the security of their networks and steal sensitive information.

Most targets were based in the US, as well as Japan and South Korea, Burt said.

Like many cybercriminals and threat actors, Thallium typically attempts to trick victims through a technique known as spear phishing.

FILE - Microsoft Corp. signage is shown outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Wash.
FILE – Microsoft Corp. signage is shown outside the Microsoft Visitor Center in Redmond, Wash. VOA

By gathering information about the targeted individuals from social media, public personnel directories from organizations the individual is involved with and other public sources, Thallium is able to craft a personalized spear-phishing email in a way that gives the email credibility to the target.

The link in the email redirects the user to a website requesting the user’s account credentials.

By tricking victims into clicking on the fraudulent links and providing their credentials, Thallium is then able to log into the victim’s account.

Upon successful compromise of a victim account, Thallium can review emails, contact lists, calendar appointments and anything else of interest in the compromised account.

The hackers often also creates a new mail forwarding rule in the victim’s account settings. This mail forwarding rule will forward all new emails received by the victim to Thallium-controlled accounts.

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By using forwarding rules, Thallium can continue to see email received by the victim, even after the victim’s account password is updated.

“You can protect yourself from these types of attacks in at least three ways. We recommend, first, that you enable two-factor authentication on all business and personal email accounts,” Burt said.

“Second, learn how to spot phishing schemes and protect yourself from them. Third, enable security alerts about links and files from suspicious websites and carefully check your email forwarding rules for any suspicious activity,” he added. (IANS)