The International Cyber Security – Center of Excellence (INCS-CoE) has a history of running global capture-the-flag (CTF) hacking challenges. The Cambridge-to-Cambridge CTF set a high bar with its successful and popular challenges, involving eager students from universities around the globe in a competition that catered to all skill levels. Experienced hackers and novices alike were placed into multi-national teams and tasked with one objective: try to beat every other team to the high score!
The Country-to-Country (C2C) CTF was founded to build on this legacy, with Royal Holloway hosting a digital event in 2020. The Technion Hiroshi Fujiwara Cyber Security Research Center has taken the reins and build on last year’s success, running an extremely close-fought competition with 31 teams, who would take on challenges including reverse engineering, OSINT, steganography, code-breaking, and more. However, there can be only one victor, and due to the number of challenges completed, and the speed with which they were competed, Team 7 took 1st place. The members of this team are Dimitrije Erdeljan (UK, University of Cambridge), Amit Nizri (Israel, Technion), Jordan Bertasso (Australia, Macquarie University), Riona John (UK, Royal Holloway), and Paul Whiting (Australia, Charles Sturt University).
Riona John, a BSc. Computer Science student at Royal Holloway, was kind enough to share her experience of the event, stating that it was “amazing to have won, which was unexpected as this was my first time doing something like this”. Riona credits her team’s success to strong communication and a high degree of organization. She recounts that Paul Whiting and Jordan Bertasso kicked off the conversation, establishing a friendly and active chat that evolved into the competition-winning levels of organisation evident by the end of the event. Due to team members being on literally different sides of the planet, organisation played a key role in the ability of teams to complete challenges quickly and efficiently.
A primary aim of the C2C-CTF is to encourage students to engage with cyber-security. When asked whether the C2C-CTF had encouraged her to pursue a cyber-security thread in her ongoing studies, Riona answered that the competition has amplified an existing interest that she had held since her A-levels. She went on to say that experiencing new tools and talking with more seasoned team members has introduced new opportunities, both for study and as a hobby.
We at Royal Holloway are proud of Riona for her and her team’s success and would like to extend our congratulations to all participants in the competition. The competition was extremely close-fought, showing that all teams embraced the spirit of the event and overcame the short time they had to self-organise to really put the CTF platform to the test. Next year’s competition will be hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. For more information, or to find out more about future INCS-CoE C2C CTF competitions, feel free to reach out to Darren.Hurley-Smith@rhul.ac.uk.