Last Wednesday, June 26th, about 30 young people competed eight hours to represent Portugal in the European Cyber Security Challenge 2019, a cybersecurity competition organised by ENISA. Portugal has never participated in this competition, but this year the situation has changed. Next October, the qualified team, which is composed of seven Técnico students, will compete in Bucharest.
The 10 players were qualified at CyberSecurityChallengePT, an event jointly organised by the National Cybersecurity Center (CNC), Instituto Superior Técnico and the University of Porto, with the support of the Portuguese Association for the Promotion of Information Security (AP2SI ). Professor Pedro Adão, from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering (DEI) at Técnico, was directly involved in the organisation and highlights the importance of having a team representing Portugal in this important competition. “The local organisation of this challenge is responsible to select the ten people who compose each team. The only restriction imposed by ENISA is that there are 5 people aged between 15 and 20, and 5 people aged between 21 and 25”, explains the professor. “It makes me extremely proud to see this event come true, and to see Portugal competing for the first time in this European event”, he points out.
The challenge consisted of Capture the Flag (CTF) in cybersecurity, namely encryption, code vulnerabilities, web attacks, forensic analysis, etc. The Técnico students and members of the Security Team at Técnico (STT), Baltasar Dinis, João Borges, Marcelo Santos, Manuel Goulão, Manuel Sousa, Nuno Sabino and Vasco Franco, are among the 10 selected players. “We have many Técnico representatives in this challenge because we have a big cybersecurity team, but each one competed individually”, explains professor Pedro Adão, who is also the STT coordinator.
“It’s always interesting to participate in these exciting challenges. When we decide to participate in these competitions we aim to learn”, says Baltasar Dinis. “We usually help each other when we compete as a team and this is an advantage because nobody is good at everything. This time we had everything in our hands and, at the end, we showed that we are also good competing individually”, says Manuel Sousa. “It is no coincidence that STT is well positioned in the world ranking. They invest many of their time in solving these kind of problems and it’s obvious that you will be rewarded for your efforts. The results achieved in this competition are proof of that, says professor Pedro Adão“.
According to Manuel Sousa, who ranked 1st in the Top 10, the strategy for his remarkable position was that he has gone through a lot of focus and persistence in solving all problems. “I had no trick to get ranked 1st. I did my best and then I took the time I had left to do more exercises in another area where I also had some knowledge, thus making as many points as possible in the shortest possible time. And that’s what helped me to rank 1st “explains the Técnico student.
The national team will be composed of seven Técnico students and three students from the University of Porto. “We would like to organise a one-week event in order to bring the 10 students together to create a team spirit, and we are working on it”, says professor Pedro Adão.
The students are pleased with the excellent results achieved. “This is the first time we are competing in this event so we aren’t quite sure about what awaits us, but we would like to win so we are going to do our best”, stresses Baltasar Dinis. Professor Pedro Adão agrees: “We see our first participation in this European event as a pilot test. The most important was to enter this competition and I think we all agree that, from now, we have to keep competing every year”.