Carnegie Mellon University’s high school cybersecurity hacking competition picoCTF begins

Carnegie Mellon University’s high school cybersecurity hacking competition picoCTF begins

Carnegie Mellon University’s high school cybersecurity hacking competition picoCTF begins

by Nate Doughty / via The Business Journals

Carnegie Mellon University’s free picoCTF competition, which claims to be the largest high school cybersecurity hacking event in the country, officially kicked off on Tuesday.

And while its signature and capture-the-flag-like event will see tens of thousands of students across the nation compete for thousands of dollars worth of cash prizes over the next two weeks, picoCTF’s program organizers are hoping to better serve local high schools with year-round programming that doesn’t just teach related and valuable skills, but that also gets students excited to pursue careers in the ever-growing field of cybersecurity.

Those efforts begin with picoCTF in the classroom, an effort aiming to send CMU student ambassadors to Pittsburgh high schools who will then assist teachers with the onboarding of students onto the platform. Once that’s accomplished, students will be able to see and review basic security engineering concepts, methods and terminology. The picoCTF platform includes learning guides filled with background information on topics like cryptography, web exploitation, forensics and other general skills concepts. There are also video tutorials available as well as external resources for expanded learning.

But by having student ambassadors deployed in the classroom, CMU hopes it will be easier for local high schools to adopt and participate in the program offerings year-round while also providing these students and teachers with an in-person connection to someone who is a security engineer themselves.

“We want to encourage students to start thinking about cybersecurity careers early on,” CMU’s Security and Privacy Institute’s (CyLab) Hanan Hibshi, an assistant teaching professor in the CMU Information Networking Institute and a faculty advisor to picoCTF, said in a university post. “By the end of the competition, participants­ might discover talents that they never knew they had before.”

The picoCTF platform is a collaborative endeavor that involves CMU, the Information Networking Institute, CyLab and the Plaid Parliament of Pwning, CMU’s competitive hacking team. While students in high school and even middle school are the primary audience for the competition, university-aged students and even teachers themselves are encouraged to participate and compete, though some prizes are limited to only those in certain age brackets.

In 2019, a competition record-setting 39,000 participants contested in the annual picoCTF event. The competition first launched in 2013 with 6,000 participants.

The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology, published a fact sheet in December 2021 that claimed a global shortage of about 2.72 million cybersecurity professionals.

Leave a Reply