NCS club members take on the world

NCS club members take on the world

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 - 17:21
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Taking part in what is known as the CSAW CTF 2013, members of SUNYIT’s network and computer security club recently spent 72 hours working together to overcome challenges devised by the event host, the Polytechnic Institute of New York University. The contest, held during Computer Security Awareness Week (CSAW) consisted of various tasks, each awarding points if completed. Those tasks, such as researching an individual’s publicly available online information, mirrored cybersecurity work in the real world.

NCS-students-hackathon-2013.jpg “It’s a little bit of hacking, a  little bit of detective work,” said Pete Shipman of Rochester, a junior and president of the NCS club. “There is a subset of security that has nothing to do with computers called social engineering. It’s gathering information about a person as you communicate with them.”

More than 1,300 registered teams from around the world took part in the “Capture the Flag” (CTF) event. When the virtual dust settled, SUNYIT’s NCS students proved they were up to the challenge, ranking 197 worldwide.

It’s not the first time the group has taken part in such a challenge. Last semester, the club members took on what was called the Plaid-CTF challenge. Similar in mission, the contest was presented in a video game-like style with an avatar moving through a landscape looking for the items required by the challenges.

“It’s more of a fun thing for us, actually,” said Colin O’Brien, a sophomore from New York and NCS club vice president, adding that last year’s video game style helped keep the tasks fun without diluting the mission. “When you’re working for 48 hours straight, something like that helps break up the monotony. It was more challenging.”

While enhancing their own individual skills and sharing them amid their peers, challenges like this also provide the students with something else entirely: a sense of community.

“It’s part of a group thing,” said Austin Karn, a freshman from Cobleskill. “It brings people together to do something because we all like it. We each bring something unique to it. For example, I do programming, not hacking. Colin does more computer security. So it’s bringing together people who have similar interests but are diversified enough where we still learn from each other.”

The club holds lectures almost every Wednesday night, with guest speakers teaching students more about the topic. Interest has been so high that the club is now working to get formal classes on those same topics into the curriculum.