Student Competitions

MIT and Cambridge Co-Host Cybersecurity Hackathon

A cybersecurity challenge pitted students from two universities, one in the United States and the other in the United Kingdom, against cyber criminals in a hackathon. "Cambridge 2 Cambridge" brought students together from Cambridge, MA-based MIT and the UK-based University of Cambridge for rounds of virtual capture-the-flag, password cracking and lock-picking, among other activities.

This is the first time the two institutions have run the hackathon, as part of a U.S./U.K. initiative announced early in 2015 that called on the collective brainpower of both countries in fighting cyber-attacks. In January 2015 President Obama and UK Prime Minster Cameron met in Washington, D.C. and agreed to "bolster efforts to enhance the cybersecurity of critical infrastructure in both countries, strengthen threat information sharing and intelligence cooperation on cyber issues and support educational exchanges between U.S. and British cybersecurity scholars and researchers," as a White House factsheet explained.

The dual higher ed event, which took place at MIT, offered a 24-hour capture the flag game with blended teams of students from both institutions as well as "mini-challenges," such as the lock-picking. A gradually tougher set of exercises put students through paces on Web security, reverse engineering, cryptography, binary exploitation and forensics. Winners received cash prizes put up by Microsoft. The program was managed by MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) and Cambridge's Computer Laboratory.

"It was exciting to partner with the University of Cambridge on this initiative, which we hope will be the first of many efforts to foster more collaborative cybersecurity work," said Howard Shrobe, the CSAIL principal research scientist who heads up the lab's Cybersecurity@CSAIL initiative, in a prepared statement. "We think it's vital to create opportunities for students to actively apply their knowledge to real-world problems, and C2C enables just those sorts of hands-on experiences."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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