They came from across the country to take part in the third New Zealand Cyber Security Challenge last week at the University of Waikato, and Team Hodor walked away the winner.
Team Hodor (Sjoerd de Feijter, Matthew Stringer and Vladimir Petko) from the Gallagher Group was the overall winner of the competition. Sjoerd de Feijter was the first awardee of the Sir William Gallagher Cyber Security Scholarship.
Runner-up was 17-year-old solo entrant Michael Robertson from Cambridge High School competing in the secondary school category. Michael also won scholarships to the Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences at the University of Waikato. A team from Tararua College (PHT Hackers - Caleb Fincham, Ben Fleming and Joshua Gibbs) from the Manawatu-Wanganui region came second in the same category.
Second runner-up was Arcton (Jeremy Symon, Nathaniel Watson and Grady Hooker) from the Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, competing in the tertiary category.
Organiser Dr Ryan Ko says the goal of the Challenge was to focus on developing cyber security skills needed by professionals, and to promote innovations in the cyber field.
“Ethics play an important role in our daily job as cyber security professionals. The goal of this Challenge is to reach a high level of education and research – contrasting the dark-culture cyber security competitions that over-glorify the 'let's break things' mentality.”
“It was especially encouraging to see high school students making up more than 50% of the participants. When asked about their career aspirations, many of these students told us they didn’t wish to be hackers, but aspired to invent cool security technologies to counter the unsustainable number of attacks faced by organisations worldwide.”
The competition featured three rounds: In Round 0, 267 contestants solved simple cyber security based puzzle challenges and submitted flags obtained in each challenge. From there, 150 participants were selected to compete in Round 1, where contestants had to break into 13 vulnerable servers to capture their respective flags. Round 2 followed an attack and defence format with contestants having to defend a simulated company infrastructure against real-life security professionals.
As well as keeping competition servers stable while they are being hacked, staff from the Cyber Security Lab recorded the event data for research purposes such as predictive analytics, attack and defence behaviour.
Overall, there were 133 secondary school participants, 78 from tertiary and 56 taking part in the industry/open category.