North Korean Genius Mystery: North Korean Students Conquer US International Hacking Contest
The students’ victory raised fears for the cybersecurity of the rest of the world.
North Korean computer science students win first place in hacker competition hosted by Indian company HackerEarthbased in San Francisco.
State media reported that students from Kim Chak Polytechnic University won first place in the competition. May Circuits ’23 with the maximum number of points. Another student from Kim Il Sung University came in tenth place.
The success of the students raised fears in the international community about the possible use of their skills for North Korea’s cyber operations. Despite the closed nature of the country and restrictions on travel abroad, such competitions allow students to improve their skills and gain experience that they cannot get inside the country.
May Circuits ’23 standings
HackerEarth usernames of Kim Chak University students begin with “KUT” followed by “icpc”, the abbreviation for the International Student Programming Contest that North Koreans competed in. Usernames end with serial numbers, indicating that the accounts were created systematically and not on an individual initiative.
The student’s nickname at Kim Il Sung University is “RNS”, a clear reference to Mount Ryonnamsan in Pyongyang, where the university is located.
Experts point out that the participation of students from North Korea in international hacking competitions provides a rare opportunity to observe computer science education in the country and helps students to get acquainted with the outside world. However, it also raises questions about the country’s goals, as North Korea has ramped up its cyberattacks in recent years.
The international community is concerned that North Korean students could use their skills in illegal cyberattacks to steal funds and information. However, some experts also point to the possibility of using skills for positive purposes, such as improving health care, education, and other civilian technologies.
It’s important to note that the HackerEarth hacker contest rewarded winners with Amazon coupons totaling $225. However, it is not clear how these coupons will be passed on to North Korean students, as the US seeks to prevent funding for North Korea from abroad.
Despite the risks, the participation of students from North Korea in such competitions shows the desire to develop their programming skills and keep abreast of the latest trends in the field of cybersecurity. Participation also emphasizes the importance of sharing knowledge and experience between countries for a more global understanding and cooperation in the field of information security.