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CSE Students Finish 6th in International Cyber-Security Challenge

Thursday, November 22, 2018

UTA C-SAW team in actionA team featuring CSE students Aaditya Purani and Jonathon Kirkpatrick finished sixth in the world out of 50 teams at the Cyber Security Awareness Weekend (CSAW) cyber security Capture the Flag (CTF) finals on November 8. They were members of a UT System team called DefCon-UA (DCUA) that also included Henry Wang from UT Dallas and Fengkai Liao from UT Austin.

DCUA finished ahead of MIT's TechSec, Arizona State University’s pwndevil and Carnegie Mellon University’s Plaid Parliament of Pwning (PPP), which are world-famous cybersecurity teams. Purani finished second on the individual scoreboard.

“I’ve been doing cybersecurity for a long time – doing Bug Bounties for Google and other companies where you find bugs in their code and report them for rewards – and I like that the CTF competitions allow you to break into real machines and practice your hacking skills ethically without breaking any laws,” Purani said.

Kirkpatrick agreed. “It’s about knowing how to attack so you can defend. This was my first competition, and it taught me that security is a necessity because anything can be vulnerable,” he said.

C-SAW teamCSAW is the largest student-run cyber security event in the world, featuring International competitions, workshop and industry events. It is hosted by New York University.

CSAW's CTF is one of the top undergraduate cyber-security competitions in the world. During the competition, each team has to hack its way through challenges ranging from easy to extremely difficult within a certain timeframe. The challenges include web application security, mobile application security, forensics, cryptography, binary exploitation, reverse engineering, Blockchain exploitation and hardware hacking. After hacking those challenges, teams find a flag which, once validated, proves that the team solved the challenge.

“It really is a team event,” Purani said. “I do web security and forensics, but I needed help from the other members of the team on some of the other skills, and we worked together to learn cryptography. We really worked together to solve the challenges in the competition.”