VU holds unique 'Capture The Flag' cybersecurity competition

VU holds unique 'Capture The Flag' cybersecurity competition

Vincennes University Logo

April 13, 2021

April 13, 2021

VINCENNES, Ind. - Vincennes University Information Technology students captured the flag just like George Rogers Clark did back in 1779, with a modern twist using digital forensics and cybersecurity.

Showing their true trailblazer spirit, the VU Information Technology Department hosted a special Capture The Flag (CTF) event on April 8 that reflected on the unique history of both Vincennes, Indiana, VU, current events, and a digital forensic cyber challenge.

"The last year has been difficult on students and faculty alike," IT Department Chair Jaci Lederman said. "COVID-19 has made our collaborations with each other a challenge, but we didn’t want to end the year without an opportunity to serve our students by hosting a fun event that incorporates so many aspects of what we are all about here at VU such as hands-on creative learning, team building, critical thinking, and troubleshooting just to name a few. The IT faculty had a lot of fun creating the event, as well as seeing our students enjoy it. Of course, we had to program in all COVID protocols like wearing masks, and social distancing. These protocols are what prompted us to divide the challenge up into different rounds and impacted how we developed the scoring system for the competition part of the event. In some ways, the event was better because we were challenged to work with the COVID protocols. Sometimes the problem is how we see the problem."

During the first round of the event, students were given clues and challenged to identify locations across campus to earn flags. The second round of the event featured CyberQ, a new cyber range platform provided to VU IT Department for this event by EC-Council. 

"CyberQ" is an on-demand portal offering performance-based cyber skills training, competitions, and assessments for individuals and teams, according to the EC-Council. CyberQ uses a collection of embedded tools and metadata to create an environment that supports a continuous lifecycle from individual skills acquisition to team operations. Scoring elements such as flags (Red and Blue), injects, and exam questions can be cross-mapped to course content and the NIST/NICE 2.0 framework.

"It was an amazing experience that one can only expect from Vincennes University," VU student Haley Burch said. "Teamwork, hard work, and the satisfaction of getting answers correct really made this whole thing fulfilling towards my education."

Only VU could feature unique clues for locations such as Ouabache, the location where Freddie the Freeloader stands tall, the COVID-19 vaccination clinic, Blazers Give Day, and the place where VU founder William Henry Harrison and University of Virginia founder Thomas Jefferson hang out together. Over 26 unique places were marked as locations for students to find flags. The flags captured in the first round were used to determine placement in the second round of the competition.

"At first I was apprehensive about taking part in the event, but I am so glad I did,"
 VU student Steven Dowdle said. "This was so much fun, and I got to meet new people."

More than 70 students from seven different IT majors competed in teams to capture flags.

Lederman came up with the idea after reading about the upcoming Spirit of the Vincennes Rendezvous that features the history of the capture of Fort Sackville.

"Capture the Flag is an awesome team-building experience for our students," VU IT Professor Lorrie Thompson said. "It gives them a chance to get moving, apply critical thinking skills, and leave their comfort zones. The event is a creative way to encourage students to develop relationships with their peers while learning about the University and the community."

Cybersecurity student Dylan Mollo designed the flag graphic for the CTF event. The design was featured on the SWAG that students received for competing in the event.

"The Capture The Flag event is an amazing opportunity for our students to learn leadership skills, work as productive team members, and leverage the strengths of individual team members to solve challenges," VU IT Professor Greg Hirsch said. "These students showed they had the IT skills and the ability to collaborate that any employer would celebrate."