The students' victory raised concerns about the rest of the world's cybersecurity.
North Korean computer science students took first place in a hacking competition organised by the Indian company HackerEarth, based in San Francisco.
According to state media, Kim Chak Polytechnic University students won first place with the highest scores in the May Circuits '23 competition. Another Kim Il Sung University student finished tenth.
The students' success raised concerns in the international community about the possibility of North Korea using their skills for cyber operations. Despite the country's closed nature and restrictions on international travel, such competitions allow students to improve their skills and gain experience that they cannot obtain within the country.
Kim Chak University students' HackerEarth usernames begin with "KUT" followed by "icpc," the abbreviation for the International Student Programming Contest, in which North Koreans competed. Usernames end with serial numbers, indicating that the accounts were created in a systematic manner rather than on an ad hoc basis.
At Kim Il Sung University, students' nicknames are "RNS," a clear reference to Mount Ryonnamsan in Pyongyang, where the university is located.
According to experts, North Korean students participating in international hacking competitions provide a rare opportunity to observe computer science education in the country and helps students become acquainted with the outside world. However, because North Korea has increased its cyberattacks in recent years, it raises questions about the country's goals.
The international community is concerned that North Korean students may use their cyber skills to steal funds and information. However, some experts believe that skills can be used for good, such as improving health care, education, and other civilian technologies.
It's worth noting that the HackerEarth hacker contest awarded winners with $225 in Amazon coupons. However, it is unclear how these coupons will be distributed to North Korean students, as the US seeks to prevent foreign funding for North Korea.
Despite the risks, North Korean students participating in such competitions demonstrate a desire to improve their programming skills and stay up to date on the latest cybersecurity trends. Participation also highlights the importance of countries sharing knowledge and experience in order to foster greater global understanding and cooperation in the field of information security.