Cybersecurity Through 'Capture the Flag'

As children, many of us played capture the flag during P.E. class, but Fisher's Computer Science department found a way to play it in a completely socially distant way. Fisher students taking Computer Science 452, Ethical Hacking and Network Defense, enter these competitions (MetaCTF) to find "flags" by solving computer ciphers, hacking into vulnerable websites, and solving other problems using skills they learned in class. Andrew Ahern, a Computer Science major with a concentration in Cybersecurity, shares his experience at this year's virtual event. 

"The MetaCTF capture the flag event was a very interesting one. This was my first capture the flag event so I was not sure of how I would do in it. To my surprise, the general set up of the entire event was very well organized and well put together. In the beginning, there were a few speakers most industry veterans that gave presentations and we could ask questions about how we can better our career paths. The event offered multiple sections of different kinds of tasks ranging from difficult to hard. The sections were as followed: Binary Exploitation, Cryptography, Cyber Range, Forensics, Reconnaissance, Reverse Engineering, Web Exploitation.

The difficulty of doing this completely online is that I was not able to coordinate a team in time for the competition and thus had to go at it alone rather than have another 3 people by my side. I think I could have gotten a team together if this were not a virtual thing and maybe even had won considering I came in 87th out of 232 teams by myself. My favorite part of the event was being able to get hands on learning like this reconnaissance is a fun challenge where web exploitation was difficult and fun as well. The only plus side with working virtually is if I get frustrated with the material I was able to get up and walk away for a little while then come back and tackle the problems with a fresh set of eyes.

I was so intrigued by this one I joined another one for a week after. I placed 422nd out of 1587. I was presented with very similar questions with all the same categories. If someone is looking for a fun and rewarding way to practice Ethical Hacking or Cybersecurity, I highly recommend looking for and trying one of these events. Since then I am now looking to do my third capture the flag event and will be looking for teammates!"

Andrew Ahern, '21, got a chance to network and learn a lot about Ethical Hacking from MetaCTF, but next year hopes to participate with a team by his side!


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