28 October 2021 Department of Computer Science , Student , Security

28 October 2021 – Members from the NUS Greyhats, an information security interest group at NUS Computing, recently won the Singapore Cyber Conquest (SCC) 2021.

The team, comprising NUS Computing freshman Chandrasekaran Akash and Year 3 student Daniel Lim Wee Soong, beat 24 other student teams to clinch first place at the virtual event. The SCC took place on 5 October this year, and was organised by Image Engine and the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore.

The contest was hosted on the SANS NetWars Platform, which is a dynamic cyber range catered for participants of all skill levels to compete and hone their cybersecurity skills.

The platform features leading-edge challenges and mimics compelling real-life scenarios, which range from forensics and defensive scenarios, to penetration testing, with a special focus on security issues concerning mobile and Internet of Things (IoT) devices. There were five levels of challenges, each with varying levels of difficulty.

Chandrasekaran and Lim battled it out with the other contestants in the immersive Capture-The-Flag (CTF) game, where they had to navigate to different levels by solving cybersecurity challenges. For instance, they had to access a hidden feature of a remote control app, extract information from an old Windows system, and analyse network traffic.

Said Chandrasekaran: “We practised for this competition and reviewed content based on the given challenge categories. Prior to this, we also had many years of experience participating in CTF competitions.”

“There were some challenges with a very high number of points that were very difficult as well. For example, we had to exploit a web application that did not handle the processing of Word documents properly, which lead to us being able to run any code on the web application’s server,” explained Daniel. “It took us quite some time to craft a malicious Word document to fulfil our aim, but the final reward - getting the hidden secrets in the server - was worth it.”

Added Chandrasekaran: “The last 15 minutes of the competition was very exciting and stressful for us. Daniel’s blood pressure was already spiking up. At that time, we were at second place, and we needed a few more points to reach first place. We rushed through the remaining challenges to finally claim the win.”

Chandrasekaran and Lim each won a scholarship worth SGD$14,500 to a SANS Live Online class by the SANS Institute, a US-based organisation specialising in cybersecurity training. The scholarship includes course tuition, a bundled OnDemand online course access, and four months of access to NetWars, the same platform contestants used in the game.

“We were elated that we won, as the scoreboard was hidden in the last 10 minutes of the competition. Considering how fast points could be gained, it was vital that we gained as many points as possible to differentiate our scores from the next team so that we could win first place. In the end, we came in first place by a difference of 9 points - 434 points for us vs 425 points for the next team,” said Daniel. “It has been a tradition for NUS Greyhats to be the champion of SCC every year. In 2019, we fell short and got second place. It feels great to continue this tradition this year!”