PSU’s Capture the Flag (CTF) student group had successful season at National Cyber League (NCL) Competition
Author: Maseeh College of Engineering & Computer Science
Posted: July 23, 2020

NCL is a bi-annual competition representing over 450 colleges and universities, along with high schools across the U.S. It offers opportunities for computer science and engineering students to sharpen their cybersecurity skills.

The NCL challenges are based on nine essential cybersecurity workforce categories mapped to the NIST NICE Cybersecurity Framework and the NSA Knowledge Units: open-source intelligence, cryptography, password cracking, log analysis, network traffic analysis, wireless access and web app exploitations, scanning, and enumeration.

The Individual Game CTF event took place from April 3 through April 5. The Team Game CTF event took place from April 17 through April 19. The games were conducted in real-time for students across the country.

We had two teams consisting of eight team members, Team 1 Cheeto Trebuchet - Allison Naaktgeboren, CS Ph.D. student, Kelsey Troeger CS post-baccalaureate student, Ethan Bell, CS master’s student, and Jeff De La Mare,  CS master’s student. Team 2 d34th_by_dy53nt3ry - Sam Huebschwerlen CS master’s student, Evan Johnson, CS master’s student, Brian O'Neill CS master’s student, Robin Su, CS master’s student.

Results for the NCL Competition are in, and PSU’s CTF student group shined. Team Cheeto Trebuchet placed 27th and team d34th_by_dy53nt3ry placed 138th out of 925 teams. Individually, Ethan Bell placed sixth, Evan Johnson placed 251st and Jeff De La Mare placed 451 out of 5357 participants.

Computer Science professor Wu-chang Feng, says in the past 5 years security issues have led to power outages in Ukraine, fires at nuclear facilities in Iran, logistics failures at Maersk, loss of research data at the University of California San Francisco, loss of customer data through Equifax, the crippling of local governments including to develop knowledge and skills that can help address this problem. CTFs, which are used throughout our security courses at PSU, are widely regarded as one of the most effective ways of doing so. Students who have trained on them through PSU's CTF club are some of our most sought-after students by employers.  

U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics demand for these cybersecurity positions and analysts is expected to be very high. Cyberattacks have grown in frequency, and analysts will be needed to come up with innovative solutions to prevent hackers from stealing critical information or creating problems for computer networks. 

PSU's CTF student team is very active and competes regularly in CTF competitions 1-2 per month. If you would like to connect with the CTF group or are interested in checking out the team, please visit their slack channel for more information.


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, April 10, 2020, Occupational Outlook Handbook
Photo credit: Kelsey Troeger. DamCTF competition at OSUSEC, February 2020