Starcon: North Korean Facebook set up and immediately hacked

The site appears to be based on phpDolphin – a tool that lets anyone set up their own Facebook clone like those used by Isis

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 31 May 2016 16:13 BST
Kim Jong-un, pictured last year with his generals, has incited increasing global unease over his nuclear tests
Kim Jong-un, pictured last year with his generals, has incited increasing global unease over his nuclear tests

An imitation of Facebook apparently set up for North Koreans has already been hacked and sent offline, just days after it was discovered.

Internet company Dyn Research found the site – hosted in North Korea and created to look almost exactly like Facebook – and discovered that it was accessible for anyone in the world.

But days later a college student got access to the site because it had been secured with just a default password.

The site described itself as “Best Korea’s Social Network and was made with phpDolphin, a software tool that anybody can buy and use to make their own, custom version of Facebook. But Scottish student Andrew McKean made his way into the site using the default phpDolphin login details – “admin” and “password”.

He initially used the access to change all of the site’s advertising slots with a messaging reading: “Uh, I didn’t create this site just found the login” and linked to his own Twitter. He told news outlets that he might redirect the page to an anti-North Korean site – but instead it just appears to have broken.

Though the site is registered on a North Korean server, it isn’t clear where exactly it was established from or who is behind it. The country tends to host its official websites in China, and the name Starcon in its name appears to be at least a reference to a South Korean technology company.

Why exactly anyone set up a version of Facebook for North Korean users isn’t clear, either. The country only has a few thousand internet users and they are only admitted to a very specific parts of the internet – which excludes western sites like the real Facebook.

Isis supporters set up their own Facebook clone last year, using a very similar tool. That was also hit by problems almost immediately, being taken down shortly after it was put up.

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