Homestead High School's student newspaper

The Epitaph

Homestead High School's student newspaper

The Epitaph

Homestead High School's student newspaper

The Epitaph

Cracking open new skills through PicoCTF

Cyber security club gamifies hacking

To give its members first-hand hacking experience, cyber security club participates in Capture the Flag events, vice-president Soham Nanawati said.

Cyber security club members can gain many new computer skills by participating in Capture the Flag events, vice-president Soham Nanawati said. (Photo by Brian Ling)

In cybersecurity, CTF is a challenge where participants try to extract a string of text, which is considered the “flag,” from a code sample, website or file, Nanawati, a junior, said. 

The specific CTF organization that the club participates in is PicoCTF, run by Carnegie Mellon University. It is, the biggest CTF website and competition because of its ease of use and reputableness, Nanawati added.

“PicoCTF’s short challenges, easily accessible interface and inclusion of a browser-based Linux terminal make it easy for everyone to compete, regardless of skill levels,” Nanawati said.

On top of being intuitive, treasurer Dilen Panchal said the club uses PicoCTF as its content is high quality and easy to set up.

“We love PicoCTF because of the wide range of topics in their problems, ranging from beginner to advanced,” Panchal, a junior, said. “It gives our members an opportunity to apply more of what they learned in our meetings.”

Another benefit to doing PicoCTF is that its point system creates a sort of competition within the club, making members more eager to learn new skills and techniques to solve problems, Panchall added.

President Armaan Gomes, who started doing CTFs in his freshman year, said the goal of participating in CTF is to not only prepare members for cybersecurity competitions but also teach them useful skills they can use throughout their lives.

“I’ve applied a lot of the concepts I’ve learned in CTFs just using the terminal to accelerate, like how fast I can program and just do my work in general,” Gomes, a junior, said.

In the future, Gomes said he eventually hopes to expand the club to participate in more and smaller CTF competitions. He said CTFs are fun as they are good exercises for problem-solving.

Additionally, Nanawati said he sees it as a kind of game and hopes other members can have the same fun he does.

“I enjoy PicoCTF because each CTF is like a puzzle and puzzles are fun,” Nanawati said. “Finding vulnerabilities in code requires a strong understanding of how the computer and software works, and through PicoCTF I learn new things about technology every day.”

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About the Contributor
Brian Ling
Brian Ling, News Editor
Brian is a junior and one of the News editors for The Epitaph. In his free time, he enjoys sports, video games and watching YouTube videos.

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