SPICE Capture The Flag Team Gears Up for Fall Competitions


This month Security and Privacy in Informatics, Computing, and Engineering (SPICE)’s Capture the Flag (CTF) team is preparing for multiple competitions, including Indiana's HackIN Hackathon, to be held on November 8-10, and the national CyberForce Competition on November 15-16, as well as hosting a CTF competition at Luddy Hall on November 18th. SPICE’s CTF team is anchored by, and recruits from, the  Cyber Defense Competition class, taught by Assistant Professor Luyi Xing, and Assistant Instructor DongInn Kim.  The current team, led by advisor George Osterholt, includes graduate students Hongbo Chen, Yifan Zhang, Jacob Abbott, and Nicolas Serrano, as well as undergraduate Max Gruenberg and is based out of IU's Internet of Things (IoT) House. Team members, representing a wide variety of skills and areas of research, have been meticulously preparing to leverage the skills built in the class and directly apply their own solutions to the scenarios they to encounter in the games as well as in their future careers.

HackIN Hackathon, hosted by Indiana Innovation Institute and Booz Allen Hamilton, will bring together the brightest individuals from Indiana and neighboring universities “to innovate and demonstrate hardware/firmware reverse engineering techniques to win prizes and learn more about industry opportunities.” At HackIN, teams will play the role of security researchers, tasked with cyber incident response services to top companies. CTF participants will gain familiarity with every aspect of an actual cybersecurity operations based job, enabling them to learn from their own decisions as they design solutions to real-world problems.

The CTF team also competes annually in the national CyberForce Competition, sponsored by the Department of Energy (DOE), at Argonne National Laboratory. The competition is based on the defending energy cyber infrastructure, with a special focus on the usability of the defended systems. Scenarios incorporate intrusion detection, attack prevention, cyber-physical infrastructure defense, and anomaly detection. Participants simulate energy sector professionals who need to protect critical systems from hostile hackers. Competitors also present their systems design and creative solutions before the Chief Information Security Officer panel during the live event, as well as participate in a Q&A session. The DOE Cyberforce Competition serves as a critical platform for students and professionals to apply and demonstrate their knowledge and receive feedback, strategies, and tools, from industry experts in an interactive way.

This month's CTF competition in Luddy Hall represents an expansion of the two year old team's work.  Their first hosting of an event, it is a half-day CTF for both class participants and IU students at large. Built by DongInn Kim and Vafa Andalibi, the game is designed to be played by students who are new to CTF competitions.  As an effort to ignite interest in cybersecurity, prizes will be awarded to the top three scoring teams.

IoT House manager, Joshua Streiff, says of the CTF initiatives,

Capture the Flag is an amazing and proven framework for focused academic study and problem-based learning which our team has proven year after year.  We have expanded our offerings to students from middle through graduate school, and have worked to use it as a pipeline for building our future cyber defenders.  Participants consistently find it a fun experience, a way to focus their study, and a game where they can prove themselves to future employers.