Carnegie Mellon Wins Second Place at DefCon

Monday, August 10, 2015 - by Daniel Tkacik

George Hotz and Ricky Zhou, computer science majors and members of the Plaid Parliament of Pwning, compete in the DEFCON Capture the Flag competition. 

Carnegie Mellon's cybersecurity team, the Plaid Parliament of Pwning, took second place at this year's DefCon Capture the Flag competition. The competition, widely considered the "World Series of Hacking," took place Aug. 6–9 in the Bally's Events Center in Las Vegas.

"Every year this contest gets harder and harder," said David Brumley, the team's faculty adviser and director of Carnegie Mellon’s cybersecurity institute CyLab. "It's amazing to see our team, year after year, put in long hours of preparation and compete with the best hackers in the world."

First place honors were awarded to DEFKOR from South Korea, while Swiss-French team 0DAYSOBER came in third. This year's field consisted of 15 teams with players from more than 10 countries. Carnegie Mellon's team was the highest scoring team from the United States.

"The skills and deep knowledge required to win these contests mimic those needed by governments and businesses alike to anticipate and prevent cyberattacks," Brumley said.

During the competition, teams were given a set of servers with software architectures previously unknown to the teams. Each team then studied the software to find security vulnerabilities and used those vulnerabilities to attack other teams' servers while protecting their own. Teams captured virtual "flags" and accumulated points.

"This year's contest was the most competitive it's ever been," said five-year team veteran Tyler Nighswander. "Our team had a unique breadth and depth of knowledge. Everyone was an expert in something."

The Carnegie Mellon hacking team formed in 2009 and began competing in DefCon's Capture the Flag competition in 2010. The team holds two DefCon Capture the Flag titles from 2013 and 2014.

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