Last week I competed in the NetWars Tournament of Champions competition put on by SANS at their annual Cyber Defense Initiative in Washington, D.C. It was a great opportunity to flex one’s cyber muscle. Here is a link to their press release on the event.
The competitive atmosphere was palpable and as the tournament began ramping up you could very nearly taste the excitement in the air. It was obvious when the scoring servers opened, because one hundred or so giddy hackers were instantaneously shrouded in a mantle of silence. Game time! I battled my way through progressively challenging obstacles to the beat of some of the most… interesting… music I’ve ever heard in my life, but at the end of day one I was actually only in 9th place overall. Walking back into the room on day two instantly transported you back into the zone, and if our monotone responses to Ed Skoudis’ enthusiastic questions were anything to judge by; we were raring to go. When they finally released the hounds, it was as if we had immediately run into a brick wall. The new NetWars is much more difficult than its predecessor. I’d have to say that that is what helped me; when things got hard I started to shine.
Exposure, if there were a word for what I took away from NetWars that would be it. While trolling the Internet for tricks and practicing them against your own network is great, I really think that the best way to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to be a real threat, is to be confronted with something new. The bad guys have it easy. There is an overabundance of new yet juicy targets for them to interdict, readily available on the web. For the ethical hackers among us acquiring this experience is much more difficult, and we need it if we are to keep the wolves at bay. NetWars Tournament of Champions was an all-new sequence of challenges that forced you to evaluate the problem, hypothesize potential solutions, and finally break in. There are few ways to improve your tradecraft that can compare.
On to the spoils! Everyone invited to the Tournament of Champions received exceedingly nifty, yet awkward to wear, sound activated, flashing shirts. Unintended bonus, you can swap in the batteries from your shirt if your Bluetooth keyboard runs out of juice, nice!
Grand prize at NetWars Tournament of Champions – The Golden Ticket:
You have won FIRST PLACE in the second annual SANS NetWars Tournament of Champions, an achievement of outstanding, astonishing proportions. Through in-depth knowledge, cutting-edge skills, and deep cunning, you secured victory!
As the ultimate winner, winner you will enjoy a trip to spend an amazingly geektastic day at NetWars Research World Headquarters. You’ll observe first-hand the NetWars super-secret lair and command center. Your exclusive travel voucher is valid for up to $500 in flight costs, plus one night of hotel accommodations, and entitles you to spend a full day with Ed Skoudis and his team, seeing how they design, build, and operate SANS NetWars challenges.
It gets even better. You’ll tour the steam punk office, a perfect blend of 1880’s design and cutting-edge technology, infused with a collection of historical crypto systems and curious gadgets. Your adventure will include the Secret Room, the Secret-Secret Room, and experiments with a genuine World War Two Enigma machine. You’ll also feast with Ed and the team at a nearby restaurant, geeking out with in-depth discussions of all things infosec.
But, wait, there’s more! Best of all, during your special day, you’ll get to experience the new SANS NetWars CyberCity. This miniaturized town, chock full of NetWars missions, is our most ambitious challenge ever, designed to teach cyber warriors how cyber action can have kinetic effect against real-world systems. As the ultimate NetWars champion, you’ll get serious bragging rights as you complete several CyberCity missions!
Hereby duly signed, with hearty congratulations, by:
Ed Skoudis, Yori Kvitchko