Cyber program participants ‘capture the flag’

Searching through encryption puzzles for clues and passwords, more than 250 participants competed to “capture the flag” in a cyber-skills challenge from May 24-30. The challenge was part of the ADF Cyber Gap Program, which offers mentoring, training and allowances to Australian citizens enrolled in tertiary-level cyber security study.

CAPTION: Head Information Warfare Major General Susan Coyle, CSC, DSM (left) meets with Australian Defence Force Cyber Gap Program participant Shobita during a “capture the flag” cyber skills challenge. Story by Corporal Julia Whitwell.

Made up of 30 scenarios of varying complexity, the challenge tested participants in cyber security disciplines including cryptography, exploitation, forensics, open source intelligence, reverse engineering and scripting.

Lance Corporal Chris Cigana from 1/15 Royal New South Wales Lancers said the challenge was exhausting.

“The scenarios were challenging and if you weren’t 100 per cent sharp in your practical knowledge and skills, it showed.”

Scenarios ranged from finding a hidden message in a .jpeg file, to translating lyrics into a coding language, and finding email addresses for fictional characters at international firms. Clues at the start of each scenario led participants to each task, building on their repertoire for more complex problem-solving.

“It’s all about practice. Once you solve one of these problems you know exactly where to look first the next time you come across something similar,” Lance Corporal Cigana said.

Lance Corporal Cigana took an interest in cyber while working with communications equipment in protected mobility vehicles, and now studies a Bachelor of Science majoring in cyber security and forensics. He joined the ADF Cyber Gap Program in January and hopes to find a cyber-role in Defence when he graduates this year.

Program Manager Tegan Blunt said the program’s aim is to increase Australia’s cyber workforce.

“We’re encouraging people to look at cyber careers in the ADF and, more broadly, Defence and other government departments,” she said.






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