Radio Waves: North Korea Fights Outside Influence, Phishing Scam Uses Morse Code, The Power of Radio, and Afghanistan International TV

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

That’s ‘Comrade’ To You! North Korea Fights To Purge Outside Influences On Language (NPR)

SEOUL — In the show Crash Landing on You, a rich South Korean woman accidentally paraglides into North Korea, where she is rescued by an army officer and falls in love with him. The series, which was released on Netflix in 2019, was a hit across the Korean Peninsula — including in the North, where it circulated on smuggled thumb drives.

“It created quite a stir, with Kim Jong Un even forbidding people from watching it,” says Kang Nara, a North Korean defector in Seoul who served as a consultant to the show.

That’s not surprising, as all South Korean content is effectively banned in North Korea.

Kang says she found Crash Landing on You appealing for its realistic depictions of life in the North, including the language. As in real life, North Koreans in the drama, for example, call their intimate partners “comrade” instead of “honey.”

But differences in language from the South are a sensitive issue for the North Korean regime. It has fought for more than half a century to purge North Korea’s language of foreign influences, and for roughly two decades to keep out southern-style expressions that northerners are gleaning from bootlegged South Korean TV dramas, movies and K-pop music. [Continue reading…]

Microsoft catches hackers using Morse Code to help cover their tracks (CyberScoop)

Clever hackers use a range of techniques to cover their tracks on a target computer, from benign-looking communication protocols to self-erasing software programs.

It’s not very often, though, that digital attackers turn to Morse Code, a 177-year-old signaling system, for operational security. Yet that’s exactly what played a part in a year-long phishing campaign that Microsoft researchers outlined on Thursday.

Morse Code — a method of representing characters with dots and dashes popularized by telegraph technology — was one of several methods that the hackers, whom Microsoft did not identify, used to obscure malicious software. It’s a reminder that, for all of their complexities, modern offensive and defensive cyber measures often rest on the simple concept of concealing and cracking code.

Hackers were sending select targets fake invoices to try to convince them to cough up their passwords and, in some cases, to collect IP addresses and location data of victim machines. The hackers changed their encryption schemes every month to try to hide their activity.

Microsoft analysts likened the malicious attachments the hackers used to steal usernames and passwords from victims, and then to try to gain further access to networks, to a “jigsaw puzzle.”

“[O]n their own, the individual segments of the HMTL file may appear harmless at the code level and may thus slip past conventional security solutions,” Microsoft said in a blog post. “Only when these segments are put together and properly decoded does the malicious intent show.”[]

The power of radio in Sierra Leone (Aljazeera)

In Sierra Leone, the Radio Teaching Programme is helping children access education during disease outbreaks and beyond.

I was only a few months into my new role as Sierra Leone’s education minister when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. At the peak of the crisis, up to 1.6 billion children across the world found themselves unable to attend school in person. Many countries were caught off guard and struggled to find ways for children to continue their education at home. In Sierra Leone, however, we were prepared for the school closures that arise from such pandemics. The interactive Radio Teaching Programme that we established during the 2014-16 Ebola crisis meant that we were ready to provide distance schooling to millions of students.

During the Ebola outbreak, students were out of school for the larger part of nine months. These were the years before Zoom calls and online learning platforms for schools. Besides, very few households had access to internet technology in Sierra Leone. It was decided that radio programming would be the most efficient method to deliver lessons as it was cost-effective, engaging, and could easily be adapted to local languages.

Using funding from the Global Partnership for Education, 80,000 portable radio sets were distributed to learners in 2014. The best teachers were selected to present compelling lessons to 1.8 million learners. It worked well. While the radio teaching programme ended when the Ebola crisis was over, the ministry kept the Education Radio station alive.

When COVID-19 emerged as a new threat to in-person teaching, we knew we could rely on radio programmes to deliver lessons and prevent students from falling behind on their education. We retrained teachers and adjusted the curriculum, so in March 2020, when Sierra Leone’s first COVID-19 case was recorded and the schools were closed down, we were ready to start distance learning. Children in Sierra Leone tuned into their lessons on the radio from March 2020 until September 2020, when they started returning to their schools for in-person learning (students in examination classes returned earlier in July).

Since I took on my role as minister, we have developed and started implementing a new radical inclusion policy to ensure that every child in the country has access to quality education – particularly those who have been traditionally excluded from mainstream schooling. Last year, the Institute for Governance Reform and Oxfam Sierra Leone conducted surveys across the country to determine the education system’s shortcomings. The data they gathered revealed that certain rural districts, such as Pujehun and Falaba, had low access to the Radio Teaching Programme due to a lack of contiguous FM radio transmitter coverage and limited availability of receivers. Disappointingly, not all students were being reached.

We approached GRID3, a project focused on geo-referenced infrastructure and demographic data, to map where the radio transmitters were and who they were reaching using geospatial modelling.[]

Volant Media UK Launches Afghanistan International TV (Iran International)

On Sunday, the day the Taliban captured Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, Volant Media UK Ltd., the parent company of Iran International TV, launched Afghanistan International TV (AITV). AITV aspires to serve as a 24/7 international news network to provide reliable information for audiences and protect media freedom in the country.

With Afghanistan undergoing a chaotic transition after the US military withdrawal, AITV aspires to be a voice for the voiceless—to tell the story of the people of Afghanistan, as Harun Najafizada, AITV’s director tells Iran International TV. He revealed concerning reports of the Taliban’s tense relations with the media community and how independent journalistic activities have been severely disrupted.

The situation in Afghanistan is so dire that AITV decided to launch the network prior to the planned start date—which was slated for the United Nations’ International Peace Day on September 21. The hope is that this will fill a media vacuum that has developed with so many people fleeing the country and will provide a critical source of reporting and information amid rapidly shifting events on the ground.

AITV, which has started with daily nine hours of live television news and programs, plans to expand to a full 24/7 schedule as soon as possible. But AITV also has a radio stream which is already offering 24-hour news and programs.[]

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