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Cyberthon 2022: Nurturing Budding Cybersecurity Specialists

Written by: Peh Jia Qian (22S6B)

Participants at the last day of training

Imagine seeing a few hundred young hackers work intensely, participating in a cyber security Capture The Flag (CTF) competition. This was the scene at Cyberthon 2022, a cybersecurity competition organised by Hwa Chong Institution (College Section), in collaboration with the Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies (CSIT) and Defence Cyber Organisation (DCO). Rather than engaging in a sinister event, it was a day of fun and meaningful learning for the competitors.

Cyberthon 2022 officially started on 9 April, when students had a full day of online training and challenges to overcome, while honing their cyber-security skills. Several lessons were subsequently held over the rest of April, which imparted varying skills, such as the basics like pwn, web and cryptography to advanced reverse engineering and data science challenges. Over three to four weeks, participants could learn and practise these skills as preparation for The Apocalypse (the final CTF competition).

The event was filled with valuable information and had plenty of opportunities to acquire hands-on experiences. They also appreciated the tutelage of the patient trainers and fellow peers on the mass communication Discord server. However, having the goal of acquiring so much new information in a short time period has led to many falling behind as the skills taught became more complex, while the pace of training continually grows. In the face of such challenges, the participants overcame them through the spirit of “自强不息”, while persevering through the problems and gradually improving from the tutelage.

The Apocalypse on 7 May would be a test of what everyone has learnt, where participants worked in their teams to pit their skills and knowledge against each other, racking up as many points as they could in an attempt to clinch the awards offered. Some interviewees said they felt excited and somewhat anxious for the event, but most of them had the main goal of trying their very best at the competition.

Joey Tang (22S6F), a participant at Cyberthon 2022, felt that “CTFs are about 80% experience and 20% actual skill”, which is the reason that attempting and participating in the event would be beneficial in gaining cyber security experience. Cao Yu Xuan (21S6D), another participant, said that it was “a perfect opportunity to learn new things and even make new friends”.

Event briefing conducted by the organisers

The participants' goodie bag at Cyberthon 2022

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