What is CTF (Capture-The-Flag)?
What is CTF (Capture-The-Flag)?
Cyber security activities are carried out at many points, from storing and transporting data in electronic media and devices. Various practices are carried out to develop cyber security systems in public and private institutions. Among these, CTF stands out especially with its instructive identity that awakens the spirit of struggle.
For those who wonder what CTF is; It is a cyber competition that means "Capture the Flag". Basically, the categories and participation types of the competition vary depending on the organization along with the duration of the competition. While there may be weekly competitions, some CTF competitions are held daily or in shorter periods. The main reason for organizing the competitions is usually that companies want to find potential cybersecurity experts.
Participation in the competition is both team and individual and is divided into two types: attack-defense and jeopardy. In CTF competitions, attack-defense consists of a team and a system given to the team. The team must attack the opponent and successfully infiltrate their system while simultaneously protecting it. Unlike attack-defense, jeopardy asks participants to answer certain questions within a given time limit. In jeopardy CTF competitions, the point range and difficulty levels of the questions are different from one another. The question categories that vary from contest to contest include mostly Cryptology, Web, Misc and Osint. CTF competitions offer an advantageous career opportunity for cyber security experts and candidates.
What are the CTF (Capture-The-Flag) Categories?
The development of the cybersecurity field is associated with system improvements as well as the training of specialized software developers. For those who want to build a career in cyber security, CTF competitions are very functional in measuring skills and knowledge. However, solving problems, protecting the system and earning points by infiltrating the other party's system are the main goals of the competition. In the competition, where individual and team games take place together, the rules for the participants are determined according to the type of competition. Capture The Flag types are divided into attack-defense and jeopardy, while categories for participants are divided into more types:
● Steganografi: Steganography as a science is basically concerned with the concealment of information. It is one of the two most common methods used in cybersecurity to ensure data privacy. In CTF competitions, participants encounter audio or visuals hidden in the steganography category.
● OSINT: Known as open source intelligence, OSINT is the acquisition of data from publicly accessible areas and sources. Competitors navigate through various social media and web pages to find flags in this category in CTF. The problem in the Osint category needs to be solved by following the clues in line with the information provided.
● Reverse Engineering: Reverse engineering is often used to understand and intervene in the functioning of a system. In CTF competitions, reverse engineering participants who cannot access the source code work to solve the system. Thus, they can earn points by revealing the source codes in hardware and software.
● Network ve Forensics: As a branch of digital computing, network forensics is one of the most important areas for cyber security. In CTF Network and Forensics competitions, problems usually arise in memory dumps, file format analysis and RAM images.
● Pwning ve Exploiting: Pwning and exploiting activities mainly involve obtaining data based on a system vulnerability. For CTF, competitors in this category are given the source code of the system and are expected to exploit the system by identifying vulnerabilities.
● Misc: Misc, which literally means "various, mixed", represents more than one application in cyber security studies. In CTF competitions, participants may need to use a combination of reverse engineering, crypto and pwn to solve the problem.
What to Consider When Preparing for CTF (Capture-The-Flag) Competitions?
It is important to find out what CTF competitions are, the categories and who can participate before you enter. CTF, a digital and cyber capture the flag competition, also offers educational and career opportunities. Various stages and preparation processes await software developers, students and expert candidates who want to participate in the competition. Things to consider while preparing for the Capture The Flag competition before applying can be listed as follows:
● It is recommended to reach a certain level of expertise in at least one of the categories if you are considering participating in CTF races. Specializations developed in more than one field provide an advantage in areas such as misc, allowing you to solve the problem more effectively and quickly.
● When preparing for Capture The Flag competitions, attention should be paid to the organization's competition rules, process and the level of difficulty depending on the type. Each competition category contains problems and solutions related to different cybersecurity applications.
● When participating in the competition, it should be decided whether you want to participate individually or as a team. In some categories, the questions may require teamwork, while in others it is possible to progress faster as an individual.
● As an individual participant, personal equipment is very important in CTF competitions. Instead of a single area of specialization, a person's ability to master many fields, as well as his/her ability to work in a team, affects the results.
● In preparation for CTF competitions, studying previous competitions and reviewing questions can familiarize you with the competition dynamics. Retrospective studies in terms of the way problems were solved, the time spent and the methods followed can provide practical solutions during the competition.
● Along with professional knowledge and experience, it is useful for participants to examine the systemic tactics previously applied in the competition. Thus, by eliminating the methods followed in possible scenarios, it may be possible to come up with strong solutions.
What are the Benefits of CTF (Capture-The-Flag) Competitions?
Cybersecurity is responsible for processing, protecting and securely transporting data in digital media and devices. CTF cyber security is one of the most enjoyable and instructive applications. While organizing CTF competitions, there are many two-way benefits for both the organizers and the participants. For a software developer, CTF and similar competitions are one of the keys to catching up with the ever-changing digital world. For software developers and expert candidates, the contest, which contributes to personal development as well as professional development, offers rich experiences. It is possible to list the gains awaiting those who are considering participating in Capture The Flag competitions as follows:
● As the participants compete in teams, solving questions, analyzing and finding new paths accelerates. Together, participants develop their analytical thinking skills and gain new experiences of team spirit.
● Quick thinking and action-taking skills are tested in competitions for system problems given in a limited time frame. In this way, software developers can reach the point of making solution-oriented decisions quickly when faced with high-risk situations.
● CTF competitions offer participants an individual experience in testing, auditing, hacking and defending cyber security. With the categories in the competition, new techniques, professional knowledge and trials can be realized together for the participants.
● The ability to empathize also allows CTF competitions to reinforce the ability to think simultaneously as a defender and an attacker. Competitors achieve new competencies by being able to infiltrate targeted counterspace while protecting their systems.
● Directly related to cybersecurity, CTF competitions focus on security vulnerabilities, data privacy and data migration issues. As software developers, participants get the chance to test different scenarios by identifying, exploiting and exposing these vulnerabilities.