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Cyber Hacking Competitions: Not just Fun and Games

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hacker over a screen with binary codeThe need for cybersecurity experts is growing—in fact, it is outpacing the supply of workers. Nowhere is this more evident than in our nation’s defense. Last April, National Public Radio reported on an annual three-day event sponsored by the National Security Agency (NSA) called CDX intended to boost skills among up and coming cyber defense specialists. In this exercise, top cyber security students from the nation’s military academies are challenged to create cyber defenses that can withstand hacking from the NSA’s specialists.

This exercise is both a training tool as well as a recruiting opportunity for the NSA, who have an acute need for cyber specialists. Similarly, these specialists are in high demand across many private sector industries, especially those involving Internet technologies.

This year’s issue of Auburn Speaks, titled On Cyber and the Digital Domain, features a piece about a related cyber security contest hosted by Facebook called Capture the Flag. Because of its vast information holdings, Facebook has a vested interest in fostering the best in cyber security talent, so they often host cyber hacking contests to find and recruit new cyber hacking specialists. In May 2014, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) hosted one of the first such events at a college, and a team from Auburn University participated.

In his chapter, “Facebook Capture the Flag: Cyber Tales from the ARRRG Sea,” Ben Denton, a member of the Auburn team offers a firsthand account of the experience.  Auburn’s team, called Pirates of the ARRRG Sea, participated in a series of challenges wherein the goal was to break into a digital entity—perhaps a website or a piece of software—and capture a virtual flag from it. These challenges required increasing levels of sophistication and hacking technique. Pirates of the ARRRG Sea placed second in the contest, but, as Denton notes in his chapter, the experience and knowledge gained was invaluable. Moreover, as cyber security becomes an increasingly vital—and understaffed—component of the digital domain, events like CDX and Capture the Flag will be essential to finding the next generation of cyber talent.

To learn more, get your copy Auburn Speaks: On Cyber and the Digital Domain from the Auburn Speaks Store today or visit: http://www.auburn.edu/auburnspeaks.

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