Students from Worcester Preparatory School’s Upper and Middle School tech teams participated in Toaster Wars, an online Capture the Flag Competition hosted by Carnegie Mellon and sponsored by leading technology corporations and the National Security Agency. The competition, which took place from April 26 to May 6, was open to middle school and high school students from the United States, but the difficulty is targeted at students in upper levels of high school and runs the gamut from low-level cryptology to AP Computer Science problems.
CTFs are a type of computer security competition usually aimed at college-level students and industry professionals. Carnegie Mellon’s picoCTF is a CTF designed for younger students who might be interested in computer science or computer security. The primary goals are to educate students on what computer security is about and to show how much fun this field can be.
Certain pieces of information called flags are placed on servers, encrypted, hidden, or otherwise stored somewhere difficult to access. During the competition, different challenges are released which allow the participants to reverse engineer, break, hack, decrypt and do whatever it takes to capture a flag. When a team submits a flag to a scoring page, it gets points. The challenges are all set up with the intent of being hacked, making it an excellent, legal way to get hands-on experience.
This was the first year for the competition, and there were 2,000 teams participating from all over the United States. Worcester Preparatory School’s Upper School Team completed the competition in eighth place and tied for third place in actual tasks completed and points earned. The Middle School team, which was one of very few at this level, competed in the same competition as the Upper School team and came in 798th overall.
Teams were limited to five members. Many schools had multiple teams. Worcester’s Upper School team consisted of juniors Lane Spangler, team leader; Lucas Baier; Jamie Welch; and Chris Klug; and sophomore Cameron DiPerna. The Middle School eam was composed of eighth-grade members Jordan Welch, Davis Mears, Nikhil Moondra and Joshua Willey and seventh-grader Anna Engel. Team alternates were junior Ben Clark, senior Talha Ehtasham and sophomore Mikalah Potvin.