Praetorian Sponsors University of Texas ComSoc Hackathon
AUSTIN, TX, Apr. 14, 2012 — Praetorian proudly sponsored the first annual Hack-A-Thon, organized and hosted by The University of Texas chapter of IEEE Communications Society (ComSoc). ComSoc is an entirely student-led and student-organized group that promotes information security education on the UT campus. ComSoc holds regular student-led lectures on both offensive and defensive security techniques, with the goal of spreading knowledge and awareness of computer security issues to the students of UT’s ECE and CS departments.
Members of ComSoc’s leadership placed 2nd in the 2012 Southwest Regional CCDC, which inspired the new Hack-A-Thon. According to ComSoc’s President, Richard Penshorn, “Our favorite part of CCDC was not just defending our computer systems but the initial information gathering we had to preform. We wanted to bring this information gathering combined with a bit of offensive hacking to the students of UT Austin.” The purpose of the Hack-A-Thon was “to motivate students to learn topics in security while giving them a safe environment to play and learn,” and from what we observed, it did just that.
Students were told that they’ve been contracted to test the security of a fictitious company Zojix, and that their first task was to gain access to an employee’s desktop computer. From there the competitors followed a series of elaborately scripted scenarios to gain deeper and higher value access to the Zojix internal network. This fictitious target network was created entirely within ComSoc’s carefully monitored sandbox, and segmented from the Internet, giving the competitors a safe lab environment to test their new found security skills.
There were 15 students from both ECE and CS departments competing on 6 teams during the Hack-A-Thon. Most of these students were unfamiliar with many of the skills required to complete each stage of the competition, so members of ComSoc offered a “consulting” service, costing the team a pre-determined score penalty. This educational aspect of the competition is quite unique, since most competitions are strictly focused on the competitive aspect of the challenges. Because of this, both seasoned and new infosec students could compete side-by-side, some learning new skill sets, and others competing intensely. “The best part of it all was seeing students figure out our puzzles in ways we never thought possible” commented ComSoc member Richard Penshorn. “I am always amazed to see what a team of engineering and CS majors when the work together for a common goal,” he added.
The competition reportedly took over 300 man-hours to complete, executed exclusively by ComSoc students. Presentations for education and preparation were put together by Kev Kitchens on Networking, Ethan Trevino on MySQL Injections, Richard Penshorn on WEP Hacking & Wireshark, and Jordan Rife on Stack Smashing. Once the design stages were complete, Richard Penshorn and Damon Smith both helped in creating each VM, Physical Machine, and bringing each stage together into one complete product.
“I was proud to sponsor this competition, and was inspired by the passion of both organizers and the competitors,” stated Ryan W. Smith, Praetorian’s VP of Research & Development. “Our team strongly believes that programs and competitions like this are vital to fostering the new generation of information security leaders, and we look forward to sponsoring more programs like this in the future,” he added.
Paul West Jauregui
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