HP Brings 'Capture the Flag' Competition to Black Hat

The challenges will be familiar to many security professionals. The winner of the security competition could walk away with his or her own quadcopter.

Black Hat competition

Hewlett-Packard is bringing a Capture the Flag (CTF) competition to the upcoming Black Hat USA conference, which gets under way next week (Aug. 5-7) in Las Vegas. The CTF competition will in some ways follow a format similar to the CTF event at the DefCon security conference, which follows Black Hat USA.

HP researchers have long been attendees and speakers at Black Hat events, said Daniel Miessler, practice principal for Fortify on Demand at HP Fortify. His team is largely made up of penetration testers, and they wanted to host an event that they themselves would like to participate in. That's where the CTF idea came from.

HP's security researchers are very familiar with the CTF format and have participated on teams at the DefCon CTF, as well as HP's own internal CTF events, Miessler told eWEEK.

Unlike the DefCon CTF, which is a team-based event, the format for HP's Black Hat CTF will be for individual participants. There are multiple consecutive challenges as part of the event, with participants being required to unlock each challenge before being able to progress to the next level.

While Miessler declined to detail the specific challenges that HP will present at its Black Hat CTF, he did note that the challenges will be familiar to many security professionals. One of the potential challenges that Miessler hinted at is looking for buffer overflow conditions in code.

Buffer overflows are vulnerabilities that attackers commonly exploit and typically are the result of a coding error where memory bounds are not checked.

Another potential challenge is to find a password that is hidden in source code, Miessler said.

There are 10 prizes in total for the competition, which will be awarded to the top 10 individuals who complete the competition. Prizes include USB keys, Rasberry Pi mini-computers and a Blade quadcopter.

HP's Fortify division has hosted a hacker challenge at Black Hat in the past. In 2007 and in 2008, Fortify hosted an event called Iron Chef Black Hat. The Iron Chef Black Hat events had a very different format than the CTF. Participants were pre-selected and were given a piece of software and then told to try and find the vulnerability in it.

In contrast with the 2014 CFP event, any Black Hat attendee can simply walk up to the event and participate, Miessler said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.