Capture the Flag 2010: Hacking competition at NMTech

As the Albuquerque Journal put it, “Chance To Be The ‘Bad Guys'”

Neale Pickett, a cyber security hotshot from LANL’s Advanced Computing Solutions Program, has been running the Capture the Flag hacking competition at NM Tech for some seven years now. The format is a hacker’s dream: an isolated, legal environment to run wild; tempting targets; effective exploits; and a winner-take-all competitiveness.

Tech students form teams to compete in tasks: programming, forensics, breaking encryption, threat identification and exploitation. In other words, exactly what a real-life security analyst would do. What’s great is that students can do things that would be illegal in the outside world of the Internet:

“By letting the kids act in the role of the bad guys, we’re also giving them more of an idea about what sorts of attacks to expect, because, once you start, if you’re just operating on the defense, then it makes it really hard to anticipate what the offense might do.” –Neale Pickett in the Albuquerque Journal, Monday, Nov. 8. 2010

My students often ask me where they’re supposed to sharpen these kinds of skills. If I get enough interest (expressed to me via email) I’ll consider working up an environment and agenda for doing this. It won’t be a small task, so either I’ll need help, or it’ll cost a lot. But think about it: isn’t this exactly what every security specialist needs?

Let me know what you think.