The ‘Capture the Flag’ of Cybersecurity


Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Elizabeth Secor, Editor

Remember in Spiderman Homecoming when Ned Leeds proclaimed himself the ‘Guy in the Chair?’ Well, meet the ‘Guy in the Chair,’ or more accurately, guys in the chair of the school’s Cyber Quest team. 


“Cyber Quest is a cybersecurity ‘Capture The Flag’ competition that tests the competitors’ ability to find vulnerabilities in machines, decrypt ciphers and hashes, and understand and reverse code through a series of logical and computational problems,” junior and team captain Vishnuu Gopi said. “A unique feature of Cyber Quest is its inclusion of Incident Response challenges, where participants have to identify an attack, minimize its effects, contain damage, and remediate the cause to reduce the risk of future incidents. ”


Cyber Quest is an interest-based team of three to five students who all have knowledge in computers and are a part of the Plano West chapter of Applied Cybersecurity. Some, like senior Corwin Lee, found an interest in computers from a young age and have kept up with it. 


“Ever since I was young, I’ve been enamored with the evolution of technology. After all, it’s hard not to notice when your boxy school computers turn into sleek machines that run twice as fast,” Lee said.  “I started coding with simple drag and drop blocks in 3rd grade with my dad behind me guiding me as I went along.”


No matter what age students started to have an interest in computers, all members of the team had their particular skills that contributed to winning third place.


“The hardest part of the competition was the web-based problems because I have the least experience in web languages and technologies, but my teammates filled the gap,” senior Jordi Del Castillo said. “The easiest part was digital forensics and so-called ‘hack the box’ challenges because I have the most experience in those fields.”


While students tackled both areas that were a bit out of their expertise and some topics they knew better, COVID thankfully did not provide any extra challenge to the competition.


“The competition was supposed to be held offline, but it was held online this year through virtual meetings. But the situation didn’t have a significant impact on the performance of the teams,” Castillo said. “Because the resources and the knowledge we have were the same, the only difference was the way we connected to the challenges- like setting up the VPN.”


Even with the competition being different due to COVID, students were happy that they got the chance to compete. 


“My favorite part of this competition is certainly the collaboration between teammates. Though many of us worked individually on our own puzzles,” Lee said. “There were certain puzzles that required our minds to work together, and it was definitely fun talking our way through those puzzles.”