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October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. All month long, ITS and the Information Security Office will highlight how you can keep yourself — and the University — safe online. Check out all Cybersecurity Awareness Month events, or for year-round tips on staying cybersafe, visit Safe Computing at UNC.

arm holding a flagHow well do you think your cyber skills stack up against your peers? Find out by participating in an online capture the flag competition, hosted by the Information Security Office. The challenge, which kicked off on October 2, the first day of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, runs through Friday, October 6. Last year, 60 Tar Heels competed. Will you be on the leaderboard this year?

Capture the flag is a cybersecurity game in which competitors win points by solving cybersecurity challenges or answering questions. The more challenges competitors solve, the more flags they capture, the more points they score. The top three contestants win prizes and bragging rights!

How to compete in capture the flag

Want to get started? It’s easy! You’ll need to register with a username, enter your UNC email address and create a password. You’ll be able to track your progress and see your competitors on the scoreboard, which displays all the competitors’ scores by username. You can use your password to revisit the challenge and rack up more points before the competition closes on October 6.

Once you’ve registered, you’ll find a bank of challenges, including a tutorial section to help you get started earning points. Some challenges are trivia questions with open-ended or multiple-choice answers. Others have you complete a short activity, like decoding strings of text or downloading an email header and figuring out information about the spam sender.

And if you’re feeling stumped, you have options. You can work on challenges in any order and revisit at any time during the event. There’s also a hint button (which does hurt your scoring potential) and using Google is fair game — just like in the real world.

A “genuinely fun and rewarding time”

The competition isn’t just for cybersecurity pros. The game has something for all levels of cybersecurity knowledge. And that’s part of point — everyone plays a role in cybersecurity, and the game helps you learn.

“Anyone with an interest should take the time because there are challenges and learning for everyone,” said Rob Noel, a capture the flag competitor. Noel, Associate Director for Client & Security Services in Arts and Sciences Information Services, has played the game several times since the Information Security Office brought it to campus. He’s consistently placed high on the leaderboard.

“I wholeheartedly endorse the ITS Capture the Flag as a genuinely fun and rewarding time,” he added.


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