5 November 2019 • Martijn Tamboer
Solving technical puzzles in Bucharest
In early October, three students from The Hague University of Applied Sciences (HBO-ICT) took part in the European Cyber Security Challenge student competition in Bucharest. Together with students from the University of Twente and Fontys University of Applied Sciences, the students competed with twenty European teams to solve technical puzzles. Cyber Security lecturer Daniel Meinsma accompanied the students.
Capture the flag
“Just before summer, Dcypher, the platform for research and education in Cyber Security, asked if our Zoetermeer branch, the Dutch Innovation Factory, could organise a national student competition. During Capture the Flag (CTF) participants have to solve technical puzzles (usually bypassing security measures) to collect flags.”
“Early September turned out to be the perfect time as we had just decided to put CTF out as a learning track within the current semester of Cyber Operations. Almost every educational institution in the Netherlands that is active in Cyber Security sent their student teams to Zoetermeer. Thanks to network infrastructure provided by CISCO, technical puzzles supplied by Certified Secure and extra sponsoring by KPN Security and the Rabobank, the afternoon went perfectly. And it was quite exciting to see which students would be selected for the Dutch team.”
A lucky break
“The student team of the University of Twente dominated all the other teams. But due to the ECSC strict age criteria, only five of them where allowed to be part of the Dutch team as a senior student. This was a lucky break as it allowed three THUAS students to travel to Bucharest.”
Listening to radio waves
On October 8 the team travelled to Bucharest to join twenty European countries to compete in the European Cyber Security Challenge. The students spent two days solving as many technical puzzles as possible. From deciphering encrypted files, creating code to prevent abuse of a software vulnerability to listening to radio waves.
“On the first day the student teams from Romania, Italy, Austria and Germany completed puzzles like well-oiled machines, leaving the other teams far behind them. When we found ourselves in 19th place, it was time for a tough team heart-to-heart. We started to move up in the ranks and at the end of the day we had conquered the 14th place. On the second day we managed to hold on to this position for quite a while, but at the end we were overtaken by Ireland and Norway.”
“The Netherlands is known as a pioneer and expert in Cyber Security. But to be honest, this competition made it clear that we were outcompeted by many other countries. The Netherlands has to make bigger strides in Cyber Security if we want our students to achieve the level of other countries. I see ECSC 2019 as a wake-up call to dedicate our efforts and passion to further improving the level of Cyber Security education.”