Introduction To ‘Capture The Flags’ in CyberSecurity




By Rohit Jha       June 10, 2020




By Rohit Jha

June 10, 2020

What is a CTF?

In the field of cybersecurity, CTF plays a major role. CTF actually stands for Capture The Flag, which is a type of challenge given to cybersecurity professionals and students within a time period in which they have to apply their skills, knowledge over technologies to hack the victim machine. It plays an important role as this competition is used as a learning tool for everyone who is interested in cybersecurity and it can help sharpen the tools they have learned during their training.

A CTF provides the perfect opportunity to play around with vulnerabilities and better understand the context they operate in. The more you learn about the ramifications that exploiting vulnerabilities generate, the more context you have to make decisions about securing systems in real-life.

History of CTF

Capture the flag

The first cybersecurity CTF developed and hosted was in 1996 at DEFCON in Las Vegas, Nevada. DEFCON is the largest cybersecurity CTF event or conference in United states and it was officially started in 1993 by Jeff Moss. It had also become a great platform for enhancing infosec skills as the internet grew, both DEFCON and CTF did well.

Types of CTFs

Generally , there are 2 types of CTFS:-

1.Jeopardy Style CTF:

Introduction To 'Capture The Flags' in CyberSecurity 1

The Jeopardy-style CTF is somewhat similar to the actual Jeopardy game as the scoreboard looks like a Jeopardy board with different categories and point values. There are generally more than two teams and they don’t have to attack each other’s machine like the other CTF which we will talk next.

They are given with a common machine on which they have to hack within a time frame with the existing technology and tools some of the categories can include Cryptography, OSINT, Forensics, Web-based, and Reverse Engineering.

There are several other categories that can be used. Some of the challenges can be done against the main server that was developed for the CTF and the flag is inputted into the CTF scoreboard to get points for the team. A timer is used to start and stop the CTF and once the timer finishes, the game is over. The team with the most points at the end wins.

2. Attack-defend CTF:

Introduction To 'Capture The Flags' in CyberSecurity 2

In this type of CTF, each team attacks the other team’s system, as well as defend their own system at the same time. Mostly, there are two rounds of gameplay in which one team is the defending team and the other team attacks on them and switching the same in the next round.

There are flags such as text files, folders, images, etc. in the defending machines that the attacking team has to find out compromising the victim machines. The defending team can do anything within the rules to defend their machines against the attaching team.

Both the teams have to earn sufficient defending scores by patching their machines and attacking points by attacking the other team machine.

At the End

The team members also gain a good network with the other colleagues and corporate partners which again benefits them in growing in the infosec field. The winning team gets cash rewards, prize, and swags and better network with the companies who sponsor the event and they may end up getting a job offer from there.

Losing team learns a lot of new tricks and topics to work more upon to conquer next time and showcase their skills in corporate interviews in landing them a good job also. So, it becomes a beneficial event for everybody.

CTFs are a great hobby that ultimately makes you a better hacker. In fact, many of the most skilled hackers came from CTF backgrounds. I hope you’ll find the experience rewarding as well.


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