CTF Overview

What is Cybersecurity Capture the Flag (CTF)

The traditional game of Capture the Flag (CTF) is a game where two teams have different flags hosted in their respective zones. The first team to capture their rival’s flag and return to their zone is considered the event’s winner. The game of CTF has inspired educators to adopt it for educational purposes. Since the adoption of CTF as an educational tool, cybersecurity training will routinely have a CTF component. It has become common that the events are more commonly referred to as Cyber Security Capture the Flag (CSCTF) (Brown, 2019).

The Cyber Security Capture the Flag competitions have grown in popularity and are commonly occurring across the globe. On a global level, different international teams often compete to test their skills. The benefit of competing is notoriety and the possibility to win cash or other similar prizes (Harmon, 2016).

There are three types of Cyber Security Capture the Flag events: 

  1. Attack-Defense CTF: This is a type of CTF where two teams attack one another. The game takes place in two rounds. In the first round, one team attacks the other one, and the other has to defend. Then the round changes, and now the first team has to defend the second team’s attack. The goal may be to obtain flags hosted on the defender’s systems or disrupt services (Isseihorie, 2019).
  2. The Jeopardy-style CTF: This CTF is similar to the actual game of Jeopardy. In this event style, there is a scoreboard with different categories with corresponding point tables and values. Jeopardy-style events are capable of supporting numerous teams. The goal of the Jeopardy-style events is to obtain the most points (Isseihorie, 2019). 
  3. Mixed CTF: As attack/defense is a trendy event style, it is understandable that a blend of the two would occur. This event style may have different formats that contain a combination of the first two competition styles.

Numerous websites host popular competitions and educational CTF in the cybersecurity field, which include PicoCTF, National Cyber League,

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