The Games Hackers and Security Professionals Play

7 MAY 2020 | Andrew David

Practice makes perfect they say and in the ever-changing field of computer security, Capture the Flag contests, or CTFs are an excellent way for both new and seasoned security pros to keep their skills fresh.

Traditionally held both in-person and remotely, CTFs come in all shapes, sizes and flavours. There are contests for teams and for individuals. Some contests are linear with challenges solved in order, others that incorporate an attack and defence component, and some dealing with specific domains like SCADA or automotive security.

Now that we're all essentially stuck indoors, trying to solve CTF challenges is a great way to learn a new skill. What kind of topics are covered?

CTF challenges cover about everything from simple web application bugs to cryptography, reverse engineering, forensics and more. There isn't a guide to getting started with CTFs as the skills needed vary significantly with some targeted towards beginners and others towards seasoned pros to test niche areas of their knowledge.

Check out some of these online challenges you can try from the comfort of your home:

Beginner

  • http://ctflearn.com/
  • CTFlearn is an ethical hacking platform that enables tens of thousands to learn, practice, and compete.
  • https://overthewire.org/wargames/
  • The wargames offered by the OverTheWire community can help you to learn and practice security concepts in the form of fun-filled games.
  • https://picoctf.com/
  • picoCTF is a free computer security game targeted at middle and high school students, created by security experts at Carnegie Mellon University. The game consists of a series of challenges centred around a unique storyline where participants must reverse engineer, break, hack, decrypt, or do whatever it takes to solve the challenge.
  • https://www.hackthissite.org/
  • Hack This Site is a free training ground for users to test and expand their hacking skills. Our community is dedicated to facilitating an open learning environment by providing a series of hacking challenges, articles, resources, and discussion of the latest happenings in hacker culture. We are an online movement of artists, activists, hackers and anarchists who are organizing to create new worlds.

Intermediate / Advanced

At the most recent HITBLockdown, a competitor from Sharjah, United Arab Emirates won the Open Battle CTF, organised by Hack in the Box, BHC Laboratory and hosted on CybExer Technologies’ cyber range. The 3-day hacking contest attracted students and hacking enthusiasts from across the globe, with more than 150 participants from across the globe, facing 42 various cyber security challenges.

To learn more about improving your cybersecurity capabilities or CTF, go to the next HITB Security Conference or visit digital14.com/nurture.

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