Hacking for a Cause: Students and Professionals Accept NYU-Poly Challenge to Find Next Generation of Cyber Sleuths

Hackers in record numbers this weekend keyed into the country's most comprehensive cyber security challenge, organized by the students of Polytechnic Institute of New York University to find the next generation of cyber protectors.

The Seventh Annual CSAW (Cyber Security Awareness Week) Capture the Flag Security Application Challenge attracted 217 registered teams, representing more than 500 individuals from across the world. The number of teams scoring points in the elimination round this weekend tripled compared to last year – an indication that the contest achieved its goal of attracting cyber sleuths with a wide range of skill levels, from high school students to security industry professionals.

The top 10 undergraduate teams from the continental United States advance to the finals at NYU-Poly's Brooklyn Campus Oct. 28-29, 2010. Two schools – Carnegie Mellon University and Stevens Institute of Technology – placed two teams each among the finalists, which were confirmed last night after examining qualifications. More than 300 cyber security students, from high school through graduate school, will challenge each other in the final rounds of the CTF competition and five other cyber security challenges. Altogether, more than 550 teams have registered to date.

With the help of some of New York City's best know white hat hackers – security professionals hired by institutions to find and correct their cyber security vulnerabilities – students of the NYU-Poly Internet Security (ISIS) Laboratory create and run the annual CSAW games under the supervision of Nasir Memon, ISIS director and professor in NYU-Poly's Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Top security professionals also judge all the challenges.

"The wide participation in this year's CSAW indicates that young people are becoming increasingly aware that society's digital future depends on a skilled network of cyber security professionals," Memon said. "We also believe the growing interest in the NYU-Poly CSAW games reflects the quality of the challenges developed by our students and their mentors, as well as the value of our cyber-security academic program within a community that until recently was typically self-taught."

NYU-Poly was one of the earliest schools to introduce a cyber security program, receiving National Security Agency (NSA) approval nearly a decade ago. Designated as both a Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education and a Center of Academic Excellence in Research by the NSA, the school houses the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded ISIS lab, the nerve center of cyber security research. The NSF recently awarded Memon and his team a grant to develop a novel interdisciplinary doctoral research and education program that will explore the interplay between cyber security and business, law, psychology and government policy. Four schools of New York University and one from The City University of New York join NYU-Poly for in this program.

The CTF teams that win travel grants to attend the finals at NYU-Poly where they will compete for cash prizes and scholarships are:

   1. Team ppp1, Carnegie Mellon University;
   2. Team RPISEC, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute;
   3. Team [csg], University of Texas at Dallas;
   4. Team ppp2, Carnegie Mellon University;
   5. Team BedIntruders, Stevens Institute of Technology;
   6. Team Kernel Sanders, University of Florida;
   7. Team Lady Gaga Cyber Defense Squad, Stevens Institute of Technology;
   8. Team WCSC, University of South Florida;
   9. Team ancat, NYU-Poly, and
  10. Team PSU, Penn State.

Other challenges on Oct. 29 will comprise the prestigious AT&T Award for Best Applied Security Research Paper, a new Security Awareness Video Contest, a Cyber Forensics Challenge designed specifically for high school teams, the Embedded Systems Challenge that has attracted teams from prestigious graduate schools to test their hardware security skills, and a Quiz Tournament.

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