Freedom found in flash drives

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 24th, 2018 at 6:58 PM

When Neve Laughery was thinking of an activity for Computer Science Club to participate in, the last place he expected to find inspiration was Reddit.  

“I found this post on Reddit where someone was talking about this organization called Flash Drives for Freedom, that held this event at a hacker’s summit and they had the image of Kim Jung Un that I’ve used for the posters, only you could actually plug a flash drive into his mouth,” Laughery explained. 

Flash drives for Freedom is a project run by the Human Rights Foundation and sponsored by USB Memory Direct, a wholesale USB supplier, and Forum Direct, a non-profit whose mission is to “apply the innovative and disruptive thinking of Silicon Valley to help solve societies greatest challenges.” The project helps smuggle and distribute flash drives filled with music, movies and other forms of non-North Korean sponsored media over the North Korean border. 

According to accounts of North Korean defectors, many North Koreans have access to electronics with USB ports that allow them to consume non-state sponsored news and media.  

“I thought that the display was really interesting, so I went on their [Flash Drives for Freedom] website and found their mission statement and contacted someone from there and asked if we could hold an event here,” Laughery said. 

The USBs are collected from events like the one Laughery is holding in conjunction with Computer Science Club, and from wholesale USB manufacturers. The USBs are then wiped clean of any identifying data or markers and filled with the media. 

“They then take the flash drives to the border with South Korea and attach them to these weather balloons and the flash drives drop randomly over North Korea,” said Laughery. 

According to the Flash Drives for Freedom mission statement, independent groups of North Korean defectors had raised money and spent time uploading media to USB drives in the past. By the end of 2018 the project hopes to have distributed 125,000 USB sticks into North Korea. 

“Other events were proposed like for recycling and things like that, but I thought that it would be good to have something that was a little more political — that would garner a little more attention and I like the impact that it’s having,” Laughery said. 

The Flash Drives for Freedom drive began Oct. 10 and will run until Oct. 31.  Interested parties can drop off USBs in a specially marked container in the computer science lounge located in Ross Hall 137. 

Shayma Musa can be reached at

Tags: news, cs club

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