NYU-Poly Hosts World’s Largest Capture the Flag Hacking Competition

Logging in from around the world, thousands of student hackers participated in the preliminary round of the Cybersecurity Awareness Week (CSAW) Capture the Flag competition hosted by the Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly). With 639 teams competing, it marked the world’s largest Capture the Flag event, outpacing DEFCON and attracting five times the number of teams that participated last year.

Capture the Flag (CTF) is an entry-level competition designed to test the application security skills of undergraduate students interested in computer security. Working in teams of four or fewer, CTF competitors mounted attacks on vulnerable applications and solved offense challenges in their quest to earn the most points, or “flags,” and qualify for cash prizes up to $1,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to New York City for the CSAW finals. 

Fifteen finalist teams won travel grants to compete at NYU-Poly in the CSAW CTF Finals: 

1. Delusions of Grandeur, United States Air Force Academy

2. PPP1, Carnegie Mellon University

3. MadHatters, Georgia Institute of Technology

4. RPISEC, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute 

5. PTHC, Northeastern University

6. PPP2, Carnegie Mellon University

7. CISSP Groupies, Ecole de Technologie Superieure (Canada)

8. NULLify, University of Nebraska at Omaha

9. csg, University of Texas at Dallas

10. Modern Prometheans, New Mexico Tech

11. Brooklynt Overflow, Polytechnic Institute of New York University 

12. wildhats, University of New Hampshire

13. BUILDS, Boston University

14. USMA, United States Military Academy

15. UTDCSG, University of Texas at Dallas

In 2010, 85 teams scored points competing in CTF. In 2011, that number more than doubled, to 207. As this year’s registrations surpassed 1,000 teams, CSAW organizers realized they had a chance to break a world record. Of the 1,357 teams from 72 different countries (including 731 from the United States) that ultimately registered, 639 scored points in the preliminary round.  Visitors from 93 countries tracked the progress of the challenge as it progressed.

“The explosion of entrants this year is a sure sign that more students are being drawn to the excitement of computer security,” said Nasir Memon, founder of CSAW and director of NYU-Poly’s cyber security program.  “This country is facing a critical shortage of cyber security professionals, and events like CSAW are a valuable tool for nurturing talent and building one of the most important workforces of the future.” 

Now in its ninth year, CSAW is one of the world’s leading cyber security education events. The three-day CSAW finals, held November 15-17, 2012, will draw hundreds of the world’s most promising cyber security students and leading practitioners to NYU-Poly’s Brooklyn campus. The challenges are led by NYU-Poly cyber security students and created with help from security professionals and academics.

In addition to CTF, other games include the High School Forensics Challenge, a murder-mystery game that has already attracted more than 250 teams; the Embedded Systems Challenge, an advanced round of play to discover and exploit hardware vulnerabilities, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Security Quiz, a trivia game open to all students during the CSAW finals. A mobile security conference will open the CSAW events for the first time.

For more information about CSAW, visit engineering.nyu.edu/csaw2012

NYU-Poly was one of the first universities to introduce a cyber security program, and is designated as both a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and a Center of Academic Excellence in Research by the National Security Agency.  The Sloan Consortium named NYU-Poly’s virtual graduate cyber security program the Outstanding Online Program of 2011. The Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Security and Privacy (CRISSP), a cutting-edge research collaboration of NYU-Poly and other NYU schools, re-examines the entire cyber security paradigm to integrate technology with broader issues such as human psychology, business, public policies and law.