December 12, 2016
For 36 hours in a large room at New York University, four members of Carnegie Mellon’s hacking team sat hunched over their laptops, furiously pecking away at their keyboards during a virtual game of capture the flag. At the contest’s end, the team, the Plaid Parliament of Pwning (PPP), extended their winning streak to eight years.
“While we’re glad to keep up the winning streak, it’s not our only motivation,” says Tim Becker, a junior computer science and math major and one of the team’s captains. “What motivates us is having fun, being pushed to our limits and learning a lot in the process.”
The Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW) capture the flag was hosted by NYU and ran from Thursday, November 10 to Saturday, November 12. The finalists consisted of 15 teams from the United States and Canada. The results of the final competition can be viewed here.
During the competition, teams hacked their way into servers hosted by the competition organizers, completing challenges and capturing virtual “flags” worth points. At this year’s CSAW contest, Becker played alongside fellow PPP members Samuel Kim, Corwin De Boor and Matthew Savage.
“All four of us have been playing CTFs since high school and have competed in the final round of CSAW CTF before,” Becker says. “We had a great balance of skills which meant we were able to solve challenges from all categories.”
The CSAW Capture the Flag competition is one of several hacking contests PPP participates in every year, including DefCon – known to many as the “World Series of Hacking” – which PPP won for the third time in the last four years last August.
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