CSC News

March 18, 2004

NC State Computer Science students achieve fourth place in anti-hacking competition

Member of the CTF team.Students typically cram for exams and work on papers during Dead Week at NC State. Getting it all done before the deadlines hit can be challenging enough.

Near the end of the 2003 fall semester, though, one group of eight NC State computer science majors spent the week and several days prior preparing for the first the Capture the Flag competition run by University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB) held Dec. 5, 2003.

Fourteen teams entered the multi-site, multi-team hacking contest organized by Giovanni Vigna, professor at UCSB, as part of a series of live exercises in his graduate course on network security and intrusion detection. The NC State team came in fourth.

“We had no idea what we were getting into,” says Julie Starr, a Ph.D. candidate and coordinator of the NC State team. “Our rallying cry was just ‘not last’!”

The competing teams were given a web site with a number of undisclosed vulnerabilities. Their task was to find the vulnerabilities, fix them for their copy of the site, and exploit the same vulnerabilities to compromise the security of the other teams’ sites. The teams gained points by keeping their site active and uncompromised and by compromising the other teams’ sites; in other words, capturing their flag.

“It was our strong defense that placed us,” Starr says. “One of the guys said it was one of his best undergrad experiences.”

Peng Ning, assistant professor of computer science, was the WolfPack team's faculty contact. "We also had some folks off campus giving us advice for preparation, since this was our first event like this."

Student team members were undergraduate students Elliot Peele, Jesse Lovelace, Chris Bookholt, Jay Johnston, Andy Watts, John Lamb; master's degree student Joe Sremack; and doctoral students Yan Zhan and Dingban Xu.

Related links:
One student's reflections on the competition experience
The Privacy Place
Cyber Defense Lab

- rzewnicki -

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