Cyber challenge to test the best

8 July 2016

Cyber challenge

Dr Sivadon Chaisiri and Mark Will are ready for the Cyber Security Challenge.

“Building a website is easy, but trying to protect it is a whole other ball game,” says Waikato University PhD candidate Mark Will, one of the designers of this year’s Cyber Security Challenge.

The 2016 New Zealand Cyber Security Challenge is on at the University of Waikato on 14 and 15 July and has attracted entrants from all over the country. Round Zero had 267 participants, from which 150 will take part in Rounds One and Two.

Mark says designing the cyber challenges for the competition rounds presented the Cyber Security Lab with a few headaches.

“We had to create 13 challenges that involve breaking into computer systems, each one with a different vulnerability. The goal for the three of us who put them together was to design something that once hacked, would still remain intact for the other competitors.”

Round One is an online “Capture-the-Flag” exercise where teams have two hours to capture as many flags as possible, and find loopholes and vulnerabilities in the systems.

In Round Two, teams are given administration credentials to a vulnerable server simulating a realistic business IT environment. Each team must simultaneously protect their own servers and maintain business continuity – representative of a real-life business dependent on IT availability.

Chief event organiser Dr Sivadon Chaisiri says the purpose of the Cyber Security Challenge is to raise awareness about cyber security and also to record data from the competitors for research purposes.

“We’ll be able to see how competitors break into the systems and how they attempt to solve the problems. If we can see what steps people are taking, it’s very valuable information for making systems safer in the future.”

On Friday 15 July, there will be speakers including National Cyber Policy Office director Paul Ash, University of Waikato Cyber Security Lab director Dr Ryan Ko, Kimmo Ulkuniemi from INTERPOL, Tim Goddard from business telecoms provider Kordia, and Dr Daisuke Inoue from Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, NICT.

Also on Friday there will be a Cyber Security Job Fair that runs from 11.15am-1pm in the MSB foyer with booths displaying career options in the public and private sectors.

Talks are free and open to the public and all are welcome to drop by the careers fair. For more details, visit

For the challenge winners, there are prizes such as devices and scholarships to the university’s Bachelor of Computing and Mathematical Sciences degree course.

Now in its third year, the challenge is hosted by the University of Waikato and supported by the New Zealand National Cyber Policy Office (Connect Smart), INTERPOL and Internet New Zealand. Its main sponsors are Kordia and Endace.