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SANReN Cyber Security Challenge 2017: Round one completed

During 2017 the South African National Research Network (SANReN) initiated the Cyber Security Games project which was aimed at establishing the hosting of an information security student competition with an emphasis on network security.

The project was conceptualised to create a platform for students to compete in real-time during the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHPC) National Conference 2017. The real-time competition will consist of the following:

  • The challenge will test the problem-solving skills of participating teams by requiring them to complete tasks in penetration testing, incident response, digital forensics and cryptography;
  • An attack/defence system for team vs team battles. The systems used consists of dedicated pre-configured hardware and software. In the attack/defence competition, the teams have to hack each other, but also fix vulnerabilities in their own applications (by means of source code changes); and
  • Independently manned scoring system.

Due to the high interest received from students, the competition has been split into two rounds.

During the first round, students competed for positions to compete in the final round to be hosted at the CHPC National Conference 2017. Over one hundred students from seven universities competed in the first round that was hosted during October 2017.

For the first round, the students had to solve network security problems and identify security issues such as:

  • Decrypting Passwords;
  • Geo-locating pictures;
  • Solving password hashes;
  • Securing Web sites;
  • Finding information from TCP traffic; and
  • Extracting weak security keys.

From the first round only 32 students comprising eight teams have been placed to compete in the second and final round that will span four days from the 3rd to 6th December 2017.

Dr Renier van Heerden, project manager for the Cyber Security Games project had the following to say ”The Cyber Security Games expose students to an environment where they are confronted by real-time cyber adversaries. They have to adapt their theoretical information security knowledge to keep systems secure in real time. Additionally, they can also learn how bad guys attack networks in order to better defend cyber infrastructure in the future.”

Overall the Cybersecurity Challenge aims to stimulate interest in information and cyber security with computer networks by presenting students with challenges that replicate real-world scenarios.

This challenge was initiated by the SANReN Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) as part of its mission to reduce information security incidents in South Africa particularly through awareness and training activities. For more information on other CSIRT initiatives please visit

The eventual aim is to be able to sponsor the winning student team to compete at an appropriate international competition, such as the European Cyber Security Challenge.

For more information about the Cyber Security Challenge 2017 please contact:

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