Silicon Valley to host North Korea hackathon

A two-day “hackathon” plans to harness the technical prowess of Silicon Valley to come up with new ways to get information safely into North Korea. Hack North Korea, scheduled to take place in San Francisco on August 2-3, is organized by the Human Rights Foundation, a New York-based group that focuses on closed societies.

Several prominent North Korean defectors will attend the event including pro-democracy activist Park Sang-hak, former North Korean child prisoner Kang Chol-hwan, media personality Park Yeon-mi and Kim Heung-Kwang, a former professor in computer studies in North Korea. They are expected to speak on the methods currently used to get information into the country, which include CDs and DVDs, USB sticks, shortwave radio, and leaflets dropped from balloons.

Organisers said they are not encouraging hacking in the sense of gaining unauthorised access to data, but is instead hoping to “spark better ideas for getting information into the world’s most closed and isolated society”. Participants will become familiar with the various ways that information and truth are smuggled into North Korea today, and gain an understanding of the technology landscape inside the country.

Earlier this year, helped HRF to launch balloons carrying USB flash drives loaded with Korean-language Wikipedia as well as pro-democracy materials and DVDs with South Korean dramas, so that they could float from the launch site in Paju, in South Korea, across the border into the North.

Park Sang-hak also visited Silicon Valley with HRF, to improve GPS tracking on the balloons, so that the group can try and follow what happens to the balloons once they cross the border.

[The Guardian]

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