Modern field guide to security and privacy

The Passcode Cup

Scenes from Passcode’s capture the flag hacker challenge

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

Passcode invited more than 50 hackers from colleges, cybersecurity firms, and the US military to Washington last week to compete in a capture the flag challenge – a computer simulation loosely based on the schoolyard pastime.

Capture the flags are something of a right of passage for security researchers and have become commonplace inside tech companies, at cybersecurity conferences, and in engineering schools as training tools. Participants earned points by solving puzzles, answering trivia questions, and attempting to seek out vulnerabilities in software.

The Passcode competition, orchestrated by Cal Poly Pomona and Alex Levinson, a senior security engineer at Uber, was based on a capture the flag that Facebook developed and made available through the open source software repository GitHub.

“Things like this show us the art of the possible. This world needs minds like yours,” Phyllis Schneck, the Department of Homeland Security’s top cybersecurity official, told competitors before the Passcode Cup began.

Here are some of the photos we captured at the event.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor

 In the end, the professional team in the competition, Tenable Network Security, took home a third place finish. A University of Virginia team bested Carnegie Mellon University’s “Plaid Parliament of Pwning” to win the Passcode Cup.

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