This semester, a team of Delaware Area Career Center students will go head-to-head with teams from 20 universities in the fifth annual MITRE Embedded Capture the Flag Competition.
Cybersecurity student and project lead Adrian Self, a junior from Westerville South High School, said Thursday that the competition involves teams getting a stripped down mp3 player, like an iPod, which they have to design a security system for. Self said the hardware will be sent into MITRE and then all of the teams will spend a month attacking each other’s security systems, attempting to play pirated music on the device.
The teams are scored based on how many “flags” they can retrieve from other devices and how well their own system is defended.
Self said MITRE is a contractor who works on cybersecurity for the United States Department of Defense, and the competition has many real world applications.
“Just like in the real world, we have to make it usable and secure at the same time,” Self said. “During the attacking phase, the other teams will have full access to all of our code. We can’t rely on them missing any part of it that we’ve left insecure. If we can attack it, we expect they can as well. We’re trying to design an actually secure system.”
Assistant project lead Andrew Beaver, a junior from Big Walnut High School, said the challenge is competing against schools with more experience with this type of coding.
“It’s a lot of new stuff for us,” Beaver said. “We are learning stuff that we haven’t experimented with yet. We might know the basics, but we need to go more advanced to actually build a product. We actually have to write stuff that people can understand and document that.”
Beaver said the team has six weeks to work on the project outside of class, and in February, all the teams will send in their devices. The attack phase takes a month and concludes in April.
Self said the team will start soon by attacking the example piece of hardware sent over by MITRE.
“They sent it over as an example of what not to do,” Self said. “We can use it to get a feel for what problems we have to fix. I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Eli Cochran, the cybersecurity instructor at the DACC, said he is glad students are competing, and he was excited when Self approached him about entering.
“He brought it to my attention after hearing from some college friends,” Cochran said. “They never had a high school team, and they were excited to have us in and see what we can do. I love it as a teacher, because they are excited about it and they are learning real skills, industry skills. It’s a great resume builder. It’s a project they can brag about as they go to job interviews.”
Cochran added this is the first year for the cybersecurity course at the DACC, and he is excited to see how the competition unfolds.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.