A team of five Johns Hopkins students finished third in the annual Raymond James “Capture the Flag” cybersecurity competition held in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, Oct. 7. The event challenged 14 teams of students from universities across North America to solve real-world cybersecurity scenarios face by those in the financial industry. The Hopkins team members will split a $2,000 prize. The JHU team included Luis Rivas, Varun Kumar Singh, Zhengyu Liu, Vinayak Khandelwal—all students in the Whiting School of Engineering’s Information Security Institute’s Master of Science in Security Informatics program—and Ishmael Lee, an undergraduate computer science major. The team was coached by Joseph Carrigan, ISI senior security engineer.
During the competition, the team worked to identify and exploit intentional flaws in computer networks and systems to gain access, which is how real hackers operate.
“The ‘flags’ are snippets of code that signify the successful discovery and abuse of a cybersecurity weakness,” explains Rivas, noting that the challenges tested the competitors’ skills and allowed them to apply technical knowledge in finding and mitigating security vulnerabilities across a range of technologies.
“The most challenging aspect this year involved using AI systems to generate content,” says Rivas. “Competitors had to evaluate the risks of generative models like ChatGPT and determine how to manipulate prompts to aid in capturing the flag.”
A team from Purdue University finished first, and the University of Central Florida came in second.