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National Cyber League 2018

December 17, 2018

CEDAR and DATDA have competed in several capture the flag (CTF) contests during this fall semester. One such contest was held by the National Cyber League, a non-profit dedicated to providing virtual training grounds to help tackle the increasing shortage of trained cybersecurity professionals in industry. This organization was founded by other various foundations such as the Cyber Security Privacy and Research Institute(CSPRI), the Center for Systems Security and Information Assurance(CSSIA) among others.

The challenges that competitors face were broken up into several different categories:

  • Open Source Intelligence - challenges must be solved using information freely available and found throughout the interwebs.
  • Cryptography - challenges dealing with the basics of cryptography and decoding encrypted information.
  • Scanning - challenges that required the use of common network port scanners to determine what services are available on a system.
  • Log Analysis - extract and analyze anomalies found within system log files generated by various services such as HTTP, Firewalls, and Air Traffic Controllers.
  • Network Traffic Analysis - investigate and determine malicious behavior by looking through files of network packets.
  • Password Cracking - given encrypted or hashed version of passwords, use open source tools to crack them using combinations of dictionary and rule-based attacks.
  • Wireless Access Exploitation - similar to network traffic analysis, but the network traffic files contained traffic unique to wireless access point traffic.
  • Web Application Exploitation - Learn, discover, and explore various common attacks that can be levied against websites.
  • Enumeration and Exploitation - competitors are given pre-compiled or obfuscated programs and must deduce their functionality in order to pass these challenges.

This competition was broken up into four stages. To begin with and help sharpen skills there was a Gymnasium for all competitors with practice challenges that spanned all the different categories.

Then competitors begin the first qualifying event with the Pre-Season set of challenges, and performance in this event determines which bracket a competitor is placed in for the Regular Season. Two students were ranked in the top 40 out of approximately  on the national leaderboard by the end of the Pre-Season.

After this first qualifier, CEDAR and DATDA had 6 students in the Gold bracket, 4 in the Silver bracket, and 2 students in the Bronze bracket. Students competed exceptionally in the regular season with one student ranked 39th overall on the national leaderboard and several other students just shy of making the top 100 by a few points. 

Both the pre-season and regular season were individual-based competitions, but the final challenge, the Post-Season, provided students the opportunity to form teams with their fellow competitors to pit their combined skills against one another. CEDAR and DATDA fielded 3 different teams each consisting of 4-5 members. One out of our three teams managed to finish in 49th place overall nationally.

CEDAR and DATDA are always looking for new challenges and competitions and have several planned for the rest of the fall. If you are interested in joining CEDAR or have any questions about the lab please visit here. If you interested in joining the cybersecurity RSO(DATDA) please visit

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