North Korea Launches Its Own Version Of Facebook

A social media site closely resembling Facebook appeared on a North Korean web server on Friday. Only a short time after appearing online, the website, named StarCon, has already been hacked.

StarCon, called "Best Korea's Social Network," is visibly a clone of the famous social media giant, complete with a blue banner on the homepage and a search field that lets users search for "people, #hashtags,!groups." Like the multi-billion dollar social network the site is clearly ripping off, after registering an account, it allows users to upload a profile picture and a cover photo, add friends and family members to message them privately, post statuses to your timeline and even scroll through your News Feed. It was apparently uploaded by North Korea's state-run Internet service provider, as North Korea Tech reported.

"The site, which was first spotted by Doug Madory at Dyn Research, is available at www.starcon.net.kp. It's running PHP Dolphin, a do-it-yourself social network application that advertises to allow anyone to create their own social network. It doesn't look like any customization has been done, so why it's appeared and what it's for is a mystery. It could even have been a trial that was inadvertently made public. Star is the name of the Internet service provider in North Korea."
There are several curious things about the site, including the fact that people outside of North Korea can access it at all. Already, several curious Internet surfers have signed up for accounts, and before the site was hacked, someone actually made a parody account of Kim Jong-un. North Korea is known for its strict censorship of the Internet, and most citizens do not have access to the web. Another curious element is that the site is almost totally devoid of content aside from the spare postings of a few people outside North Korea, and even more unusual is that it uses the ".kp" designation, the Internet country code for North Korea itself. Most North Korean websites are hosted in China.

"It's very unusual to have websites hosted in North Korea," Madory told CNN Money. "[I'm] not sure this was an official North Korean government project. But someone inside the country had to have done this."

StarCon appears to be named after Star, the state-run Internet service provider in North Korea. Analysts are speculating that it could be a government project, but as of right now it's a mystery as to who opened the site. Martyn Williams from North Korea Tech blog says, "It could even have been a trial that was inadvertently made public."

"Enjoy it while you can," William added on the blog. "I expect the site will be taken down when an engineer at the [Internet service provider] realizes it's public and attracting attention."

Every post and message on the site showed up as being 30 minutes old, possibly because the Dolphin software doesn't recognize North Korea's recent time zone change, which set the clocks in the country back 30 minutes to "Pyongyang time" on August 15 of last year, the 70 year anniversary of the liberation from Imperial Japan.

Not long after the site was first discovered on Friday, it was hacked, and rather simply as it turns out, according to Russia Today.

"Scottish teenager Andrew McKean told Mortherboard that he was able to log into the website's backend by simply using 'admin' and 'password' as the login details. This gave the 18-year-old full control over the site, including the ability to 'delete and suspend users, change the site's name, censor certain words and manage the eventual ads,' as well as being able to 'see everyone's emails.' For those keen on registering on 'Best Korea's Social Network,' the website now redirects to a YouTube video entitled 'will you give me your channel.'"
Facebook and phpDolphin did not immediately respond to an inquiry by CNN for comment.

[Photo by AP Photo/Wong Maye-E]