Card game turns you into White Hat hacker

Black Hat security conference: University of Washington creation gives you vicarious thrills of social engineering, lock picking

What's not to like about a card game that tells you right up front it's not educational?

Although the new Control-Alt-Hack card game from a team of University of Washington computer scientists does expose you to enough computer security concepts that you probably will pick up a few learnings along the way, and the game makers say it could be used in computer science classes to introduce students to security topics.

The game, funded in part by Intel Labs and the National Science Foundation, is making its debut at the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas this week. It was created by Tamara Denning and Yoshi Kohno of the University of Washington's Computer Security and Privacy Research Lab, along with Adam Shostack, an honorary member of the lab.

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The tabletop game involves 3-6 players working for an outfit dubbed Hackers, Inc., that conducts security audits and consulting, and players issued challenges, such as hacking a hotel mini bar payment system or wireless medical implant, or converting a robotic vacuum cleaner into a toy. The game features cards (including descriptions of well-rounded hackers who rock climb, ride motorcycles and do more than sit at their computers), dice, mission cards, "hacker cred tokens" and other pieces, and is designed for players ages 14 and up. It takes about an hour to play a game. No computer security degree needed.

"We went out of our way to incorporate humor," said co-creator Denning, a UW doctoral student in computer science and engineering, referring to the hacker descriptions and challenges on the cards. "We wanted it to be based in reality, but more importantly we want it to be fun for the players."

While the card game team claims Control-Alt-Hack isn't an educational game, per se, they are offering it for free to educators initially, and then will sell it for $30 to the general public come fall.

This isn't the first attempt to put gamers into the shoes of hackers, as our slideshow of videogames for "10 fun (and safe" ways to pretend to be a hacker" shows.

Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +.  

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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