Carnegie Mellon hacking contest aims to get IT security talent started young

CMU says 3rd annual picCTF online hacking contest biggest of its kind; open source edition available to teachers

Carnegie Mellon hacking contest aims to get IT security talent started young

Carnegie Mellon University this week launches its third annual online capture the flag (CTF) contest aimed at introducing middle and high school students to the world of IT security — and just maybe attract some of them into a segment of the job market hungry for talent.

Anyone can register to play the free picoCTF online hacking contest beginning on March 31 and ending April 14, but only U.S. students in grades 6-12 are eligible for some $30K in prizes. CMU says about 30,000 people have partaken in picoCTF, a game in which participants must reverse engineer, hack, decrypt and do whatever it takes to solve a challenge.

"Right now, we're facing a tremendous shortfall in computer security experts," says David Brumley, project lead for picoCTF, the director of CyLab and a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, in a statement. "The root of the problem is that most people don't even know that computer security is a field they can go into. Building awareness is a major goal of picoCTF."

SEE ALSO: There's a war on for cybersecurity talent

Only critical thinking skills are needed to get started, not that those are necessarily in great supply.

An open-sourced version of picoCTF is available from CMU for teachers to run their own competitions as well.

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