Social Media and Shopping: Report Provides Potential Insights on North Korean Online Behavior

Image result for Social Media and Shopping: Report Provides Potential Insights on North Korean Online BehaviorA new report offers fascinating insight into Internet activity from North Korea, suggesting that average North Koreans and the upper echelons of the Workers’ Party and military aren’t nearly as cut off as commonly portrayed. However, no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the report about the source, frequency and range of this access because it doesn’t provide hard numbers for many of its conclusions and the raw data isn’t available. That is unfortunate because the findings are counter-intuitive to what we have assumed about North Korean online behavior. Opening the data to peer review may help us better understand the nature and scale of this activity and, if confirmed, could change the way the world deals with North Korea.

Findings

The report was published in July by the Insikt Group, the research arm of Massachusetts-based Recorded Future. The company utilizes machine learning to deliver online security threat intelligence to businesses. The basis for the report was Internet traffic captured outside of North Korea by Team Cymru, a computer security-focused non-profit that acts as Insikt’s “intelligence partner.”

In the report, researcher Priscilla Moriuchi, the director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future and a 12-year veteran of the US intelligence community, writes that users in North Korea spend much of their time online checking social media. Facebook was the most often accessed site with Google, Baidu and Instagram all attracting significant numbers of views. Alibaba, Amazon, Tencent and Apple rounded out the top eight social networking sites over the period of the data, which spanned April 1 to July 6 this year.

Just on April 1, for example, the report notes users accessed 163.com email accounts, streamed Chinese-language video from Youku and checked news on Xinhua and People’s Daily.

Team Cymru was vague about how it captured the data and exactly what it consisted of, but it has previously said it works with “data donors and sources.” It also declined to provide a copy of the North Korean data without subscription to its commercial service. But the report did provide details of how it decided what was “North Korean” traffic and it comes down to three blocks of Internet addresses.

  • The first was a block of 1,024 Internet addresses from 175.45.176.0 to 175.45.179.255. Those are addresses allocated to Star JV, North Korea’s sole Internet provider. All of the country’s websites sit within this range and it’s also used by the Koryolink 3G service for Internet access offered to resident foreigners and tourists.
  • The second was a smaller block of 256 addresses from 210.52.109.0 to 210.52.109.255. These are Chinese addresses but have been allocated to North Korea’s state-run telecom provider through China Netcom since before Star JV existed. North Korean websites sat in these addresses about 15 years ago.
  • The third group was another 256 addresses from 77.94.35.0 to 77.94.35.255. These are allocated to SatNet, a Russian satellite Internet provider and are currently registered as being used in Lebanon. In the past, these were registered as being used by North Korea, but information in the Internet address registration database isn’t verified so it’s unproven whether these were or are legitimate North Korean addresses.

Moriuchi feels sure the SatNet addresses were in use by North Korea during the time the data was collected and points to the similarity in access patterns between the SatNet addresses and the Star JV addresses; she didn’t see any traffic targeted at Lebanese websites, as might be expected. Again, the baseline data wasn’t available to illustrate or support that assertion. Moriuchi told me, however, that the SatNet traffic made up about 40 percent of the data with just 1 percent coming from the China Netcom block. The rest came from the North Korean IP range and that, if taken alone, would still support the general findings of the report.

Among Moriuchi’s research, she found a larger-than-expected amount of traffic from North Korea to India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nepal, Kenya and Mozambique. She said the amount of access was higher than would typically be expected and directed at sites such as a local news outlets and governments—the kind of sites only someone living there or with a link to the country might access.

In fact, one fifth of all activity observed in the data involved India—a surprising amount. According to the report, the traffic suggests North Korea has students at least seven universities and might be working with several research institutions in the country.

Of the countries mentioned, Malaysia and Indonesia also maintain diplomatic missions in North Korea, although Malaysia brought diplomats home as relations with Pyongyang broke down in the wake of the murder of Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur.

Perhaps most intriguingly, on May 17, Bitcoin mining traffic was observed. There had been none since the beginning of April but it suddenly spiked. The report notes the close timing with the release of the “WannaCry” malware that hit computers between May 12 and 15. WannaCry demanded a ransom in Bitcoin and was linked to North Korea by computer security companies.

The report also noted the use of at least seven different western VPN (virtual private network) services in traffic among the data. Such services require a credit card subscription, which isn’t impossible for a North Korean to arrange through overseas contacts, but again raises the question of who is behind the traffic.

The report notes, “one VPN was used by an iPad to check a Gmail account, access Google Cloud, check Facebook and MSN accounts, and view adult content. Other VPN and VPS (virtual private server) were used to run Metasploit (security software), make purchases using Bitcoin, check Twitter, play video games, stream videos, post documents to Dropbox, and browse Amazon.”

Caveats

An important caveat to many of the findings in the report is that it’s unclear how many people were covered and who they are. The report refers to those with Internet access as a “limited number,” but it didn’t acknowledge that several hundred foreigners might be present in Pyongyang at any one time, accessing the Internet and connecting to overseas sites. For them, using VPNs, accessing Facebook and Google and checking 163.com email accounts would be expected.

Moriuchi later told me she did see traffic that appeared to be foreign residents but it was just a small sliver of the overall data. But it’s impossible to know how much because the report doesn’t provide those numbers and Moriuchi wouldn’t disclose them.

Take the Indian traffic, for example. From the data provider, it’s impossible to determine whether the increased activity to India is just bored diplomats at India’s embassy Pyongyang. We also don’t know the amount of data analyzed, the number of websites accessed or even an estimate as to the number of Internet users in Pyongyang.

In a phone conversation, Moriuchi told me the traffic collected represented a significant number of records—it wasn’t just a handful of web sessions each day—but wouldn’t put numbers on it. When I asked her what it might compare to, she said it was about what you might expect from a medium-sized company—which is about 50 to 250 people according to most definitions.

Unanswered Questions

Just like almost everywhere else, Facebook is king for the people inside North Korea that have Internet access, and they also spend a fair amount of time on Google, Baidu and other major sites. If the traffic is really coming from North Koreans rather than resident or visiting foreigners, then they really are very much like us—more than we ever imagined.

However, while the report adds insight into the largely opaque area of access to the Internet from inside North Korea, it’s far from clear exactly what was captured and whether all of it was really from North Koreans.

I’ve spoken to several North Korea and Internet experts about the report and they all draw the same conclusion: that something is not quite right with the numbers. Perhaps a lot more of it is from foreigners than estimated or perhaps there’s an unknown Internet connection that wasn’t taken into account.

Or, perhaps we are all wrong and North Koreans really are going online and checking Amazon and Alibaba. Without more information, it’s impossible to know and that’s unfortunate because of the surprising nature of some of the findings.

Moriuchi says she’s sure about the results reached from the data set—the sites accessed, the traffic patterns, the activity—and I’m sure that’s true. Nonetheless, I’d love to do a deeper dive into the data to gain much greater granularity and insight into some of its conclusions.

[“Source-38north”]

20 Taboo Topics to Stay Away From on Your Company’s Social Media Channels

If you use social media to promote your business online, you should be aware of these 20 things to never post on social media.

If you use social media to promote your business online, you’ve probably put a lot of thought into what types of posts to share. But sometimes it can be just as important to consider what NOT to post on social media.

Sensitive or taboo topics that don’t really relate to your audience can actually hurt your business if you post about them on social media without a strong purpose. Here are 20 taboo topics that most businesses should avoid posting about on social media.

Things to Never Post on Social Media

Complaints About Customers

You likely want to use social media as a way to connect with your customers. But if all you do is trash them online, it can obviously have the opposite effect. Even the occasional complaint about customers can be enough to damage your brand.

Complaints About Employees

Another kind of trashing you probably want to avoid is complaining about your employees online. The customers you connect with want to know that you have a strong team behind you that they can trust. So don’t take to social media to share complaints or rants about the inefficiencies of that team.

Angry Rants

In fact, any anger you have toward others, whether it’s the barista down the street who got your name wrong or the person who cut you off in traffic on the way to work, is probably best saved for venues other than social media.

Unconstructive Criticism About Public Figures

It’s also fairly likely that you’ll have some negative feelings toward public figures at some point, whether that’s politicians, celebrities or anyone in between. But if you’re going to criticize them in a way that’s totally unconstructive, it can come across as petty to your social media followers.

Divisive Political Opinions

You probably also have followers with a large assortment of different political beliefs. So it’s not always a good idea to share political opinions or views that are divisive or might alienate some of your followers.

Religious Rants

Religion is another tricky area. Unless your business or brand is targeted at a certain religious group or your posts don’t specifically alienate other groups of people, it’s probably best to steer clear.

Intrusive Questions

You also don’t want to be too intrusive when asking questions of your followers, either when posing general questions or interacting with people individually.

Ridicule of Any Group of People

If you use humor in your social media accounts, you need to be very careful who you might offend with your jokes. A silly tweet is fine now and then, but making fun of specific groups of people can go over the line.

Fake News

There are so many sources of fake news online, whether created on purpose for clicks or just because of lazy reporting. So be careful not to share anything that’s not true, as it can make your business look bad and lead to your followers being misinformed about important issues.

Trashing of the Competition

Healthy competition can be good for a business, even if you take that rivalry to social media. But there’s a big difference between a friendly back-and-forth and legitimate trash talking, which can make your business look petty.

Confidential Customer Information

Social media also isn’t the place for you to share any sensitive or confidential information about your customers. That probably seems obvious. But since some businesses use social media as a way to settle customer service issues, it is something that might come up from time to time.

Complicated Customer Service Issues

For that matter, it’s worth noting that social media really isn’t the place for you to settle customer service issues that can’t be handled with just a tweet or two. You can respond to customers’ original posts, but then try to move it to email or another format if you need more information.

Medical Issues

Medical issues, whether they relate to you, your team, your customers or anyone else, are also best saved for forums other than social media, if you even need to discuss them at all.

Personal Drama

Social media also isn’t the place for any drama related to your personal life. Even if you are part of your business’s brand, people don’t need to hear about personal drama that’s probably irrelevant to them anyway.

Apathetic Updates

Even though everyone has those days where they’re really just not feeling enthusiastic about work or business, your customers don’t need to hear about it. So don’t share with your followers every time you’re having a bad day or just feeling “blah” about your business.

Party Photos

Sharing photos of your team can be a great way to make your business more relatable on social media. And posting a casual photo at a local happy hour after work might be okay. But avoid the shots of the people who stayed at the office party until 2 a.m. and maybe overdid it. Those images will probably not instill your customers with confidence in your professionalism — or convince others following on social media to do business with you.

Anything Illegal

It should also be fairly obvious that posting anything illegal, whether it’s drug use or even just speeding, is a very bad idea. Ad it might get you not only duped by clients but even prosecuted.

Risque Photos or Content

You should also stay away from posting any sexually suggestive photos or other content.

Controversial Re-posts

Even if you weren’t the original creator of a post, it can still make your business look bad if you re-post it. So stay away from retweeting or sharing any content that could be considered controversial.

Anything Irrelevant to Your Audience

The types of posts listed above can potentially make your business look bad on social media. But to be safe, it’s also best not to post anything that’s irrelevant to your audience. Sticking to only the essentials can help you avoid posting anything that’s going to hurt your business or your brand.

Shhh Photo via Shutterstock

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Up Your Social Media Game with These New Instagram Features for Small Business

Up Your Social Media Game -- Take Advantage of These New Instagram Features for Your Small Business

Since paying more attention to my visual branding, I’ve come to really love Instagram. Actually, that’s an understatement. I’m pretty much obsessed with Instagram.

If you’ve been on the image-heavy social media platform lately, then you may have noticed some new Instagram features like live video streaming and short stories a la Snapchat. You now also have the option to make your profile a business page.

I’ve been experimenting with these new Instagram features and have found a few ways to use them in your marketing plan. Here are just some of the ways I’ve been taking advantage of all the new stuff on IG.

New Instagram Features

Show Behind the Scenes Using IG Stories

I was recently traveling for a client that hired me to create, teach and film a few business classes for them. Since I was traveling and working with some awesome people, I figured it would be a good idea to show my Instagram followers some of the behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a professional blogger and social media influencer.

I used new Instagram features like Stories and Boomerang (technically not new but they added it to the IG app) to show things like camera setups, sets, a tour of my hotel room and the goofy stuff we did on breaks.

Teach Something Using IG Live Video

During our lunch break, I decided to use one of the new Instagram features to teach my audience something. More specifically, I used the live video feature to show them live footage of what was going on and introduce my followers to some of the people I was working with.

For example, I was working with a local mastermind facilitator and yoga teacher who was interviewing me for my client. I got her on live video to talk about what we were doing and she even gave my followers some yogic hand stretches for the office.

Market Your Products and Services

Another thing I use the new Instagram features for is to market my products and services. For example, I created a few stories right before going on air for a radio show. This showed them the behind the scenes I already mentioned, plus I was able to share a tip about how bloggers and business owners can get free PR.

From there, I directed them to an on-demand class I sell that teaches them how to get free PR for their businesses. I simply put the link to the sales page in my bio and let them know the class was available for them to purchase.

Granted, it’s important to note that I’m always sharing valuable content. I don’t only use the new Instagram features to try to make sales. That’s simply one piece of the overall marketing pie.

Show Them You’re Human

I’ll use Boomerang to make goofy videos and post them to my Stories. I’m somewhat goofy by nature and it shows my followers a side of me that’s different from my normal “business-y” stuff.

People relate to people, so make sure you’re using the new Instagram features to show people that you’re real.

Final Thoughts

When used in the aforementioned ways, the new Instagram features can certainly be a real game changer for your marketing plan. There’s no longer a need to go on different apps for different features which makes things a whole lot easier.

Instagram Photo via Shutterstock

More in: Instagram

[“source-smallbiztrends”]

Lego Life Is a Social Network for Children to Create, Share, and Discover Lego Builds

Lego Life Is a Social Network for Children to Create, Share, and Discover Lego Builds

Lego Life Is a Social Network for Children to Create, Share, and Discover Lego Builds
HIGHLIGHTS
Lego Life is available on Android and iOS
The app is meant for children aged 13 or below
It hasn’t yet released in India
Lego, the toy company known for making plastic bricks for children to connect, assemble, and construct all sorts of things, is moving into the realm of social networks. Yep, you read that right. Lego has launched a new Instagram-like platform for young Lego enthusiasts called Lego Life, which is billed as a central hub for children to share their creations, get inspired, and interact with other budding ones.

Most, if not all, social networks have an age limit of 13 and over. So while there are thousands of communities for adult Lego fans to share their creations – from Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, or Flickr – those same Internet spaces aren’t always conducive or healthy for a child’s upbringing. That’s why Lego Life is built for fans aged 13 or below, allowing them to browse safely while the parents breathe easy.

Users can create their own minifigures – Lego’s preferred choice of term for ‘figurines’ – or follow other Lego fans. There will be account pages for Lego characters such as Lego Batman. You’ll also be able to like and comment on people’s posts, with a catch – you can’t actually craft your own response, but must choose from a variety of emoji, stickers, or preset responses.

lego life keyboard Lego Life keyboard
Lego has also fitted the app with building challenges, which serve a dual purpose of sparking creativity in what children can build, while also acting as advertisements for new Lego products. There will also be decorating challenges, which involve putting stickers on things, and a bunch of quizzes that are meant to help you show off your knowledge to the world.

Everything you post on the app will be screened by Lego to ensure it’s related to Lego, is age-appropriate, doesn’t show real people, and also doesn’t link to other websites. Even with your profile, Lego Life only allows Lego avatars as your picture, and your username is a bunch of random words so children’s real identities are protected no matter what.

Lego sees the social start to Lego Life as just the first phase, and hopes to expand it by using the account for other Lego games in the future.

Lego Life is available on Android and iOS in the US, the UK, Austria, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, and Switzerland.

Tags: Lego

[“Source-Gadgets”]