The game may be called Capture the Flag, but the players aren’t running outside on a soccer field trying to avoid being tagged. Instead, the competitors are sitting behind laptop screens, defending their servers from getting hacked, and protecting computer files.
Earlier this month, Boston University’s BUILDS Team entered the Polytechnic Institute of New York University’s CSAW Cybersecurity Competition: Capture the Flag Application Security Challenge. The group placed 11th out of 74 undergraduate teams and earned a spot in the finals that will take place this month.
The BUILDS Team is made up of Kyle Brogle (CS/MATH ’12), Danny Cooper (CS ’14), Jeff Crowell (ECE ’13), John-Nicholas Furst (ECE ’13), Monica Gribouski (CS ’13), Andrew Mohn (MATH ’14), George Silvis (MATH/CL ’14), and Liam Wang (CS ’13).
“We were really excited with the results,” said Furst. “Many companies will actually hire people to look at their own network security out of this competition so it’s a really great way to gain some experience in the field.”
The members work out of BU’s student-led BUILDS laboratory, created as a “hackerspace” for students who believe in experimental learning and strive to apply the principles of open-software and open-hardware movements in their projects.
Professor Leonid Reyzin (CS), who is the faculty advisor for the organization, said that providing students a space to collaborate through BUILDS gives them a chance to work on projects together, get to know each other, and develop their common interests and goals.
“The CSAW team came together because of BUILDS,” said Reyzin. “Students taught themselves more about computer security than we could ever have time for in the classroom, and they formed friendships that brought the team together. I am very proud of their success so far and wish them the best in the finals.”
Crowell was one of the students who wanted to expand upon what he learned in class. He joined BUILDS after hearing about the group through BU Today.
“I had some background in computers, but this gave me a chance to learn more about cybersecurity,” he said.
According to Furst, in the past, the group had been known for pushing boundaries, particularly when they tried to see what kind of information they could collect from a BU ID number.
“At first we definitely had some negative feedback from that, but later, we were asked to help test BU’s new ID systems,” said Furst. “Students can be great resources. For us, it’s not all about breaking into things.”
The CSAW Competition was designed to bring together students, experts, scientists and researchers in a collaborative environment to present and discuss issues relating to cybercrime.
Brogle, Cooper, Furst, and Mohn will travel to Brooklyn to represent BU and compete at finals on November 10-11 at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.
-Rachel Harrington (firstname.lastname@example.org)