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CyLab’s David Brumley and Two Student-Run CMU Teams Host PicoCTF, A National High School Cyber Security Contest

posted by Richard Power
October 16, 2014

Carnegie Mellon University CyLab Technical Director David Brumley and two student-run teams will host the second annual PicoCTF competition, a national cyber security contest aimed to help high school students learn the basics of hacking in the context of a story-driven game. Nearly 2,000 teams from 1,000 schools participated in last year’s event. This year’s competition will be held October 27 to November 7 at

“The main goal of this competition is to excite young minds about computer security and inspire the next generation of computer scientists in our country,” said Brumley, the principal investigator of PicoCTF and a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon. Brumley will co-host the event with Carnegie Mellon student hacking teams Plaid Parliament of Pwning of CyLab and Team Daedalus of the Entertainment Technology Center.

PicoCTF challenges both novices and experts through a “Capture the Flag” (CTF) interactive game, where participants capture virtual “flags” by reverse engineering, breaking, hacking, or decrypting challenges. Unlike traditional exams or courses, the contest offers open-ended problems that can be solved in many ways, usually requiring independent research, and encouraging student exploration.

There will be over $30,000 in prizes for this year’s event, as well as new tools designed to help teachers participate in PicoCTF as a classroom activity. Winners of the competition will be flown to Carnegie Mellon University for an immersion day and award presentation.

Participation in the competition is free and open to students in grades 6 – 12. Interested participants can register on the competition website at The event is partially supported by funds from Trend Micro, The Boeing Company, Qualcomm Incorporated, the National Science Foundation, and the National Security Agency.

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