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.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.