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The digitalisation era has bred a new type of crime – the one occurring online. Master's students from Halmstad University have participated in two competitions to prepare them for a professional carrier in this new reality.
– We hacked a fictive e-commerce site, pulled out fake credit card details and changed security settings. This gave us valuable input into how criminals think and operate, so that we, when we are finished with our education, can develop the cybersecurity of companies and organisations, says Mohammed Abdulrazzaq when explaining the hacking competition Capture the Flag that took place in Amsterdam on February 16.
The Cybersecurity Strategy of the European Union* states that: Cyberspace should be protected from incidents, malicious activities and misuse; and governments have a significant role in ensuring a free and safe cyberspace.
– We cannot protect our cyberspace if we do not learn about our cyber enemies, their methods and motivation. And it is important to take in consideration not only technology but social sciences. Both competitions – Capture the flag and Cyber Challenge 9/12 – in different ways contribute to the learning, says Mattias Weckstén, programme director for the Bachelor Progamme in IT Forensics and Information Security and, together with Olga Torstensson, in charge of the Master's Programme in Network Forensics at Halmstad University.
Mohammed Abdulrazzaq attended the competition together with fellow students Sundas Munir, Mirza Sanam Baig, Rasool Muhammed Ahsan and Muhammad Shafiq Hafiz. They all have different backgrounds but are currently studying the Master's Programme in Network Forensics at Halmstad University.
Capture the Flag is originally an outdoors game with the goal of capturing the other team's hidden flags. It has also become a common term within gaming and computer security competitions like the one arranged in Amsterdam by Palo Alto Networks, a global cybersecurity company. Students from six different universities attended the competition. They were divided into teams with students from other universities, so one main challenge was communication and collaboration within the team.
– The goal was to complete 35 challenges, or ‘flags’, within the fictive e-commerce site and its database. There were certain vulnerabilities to the site, representing real weaknesses on similar sites, says Sundas Munir who, together with Mirza Sanam Baig, runs a game company in Pakistan. She wants to combine gaming and security after completing her Master's.
The students all agree on the main positive experience from the competition: meeting and learning from international experts within cybersecurity.
– It was cool to meet prominent people in the security field! The competition was inspiring and a great way for us to build our own network, says Muhammad Shafiq Hafiz.
Three other Network Forensics Master's students, Viktor Austli, Elin Hernborg and Johan Brink, competed in an event arranged by The Swedish Defence University and Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB). They were given a scenario where cyberattacks have resulted in disturbances in healthcare and electricity as well as a political scandal with a hacked server one week before a fictive election.
– The purpose of the competition was to write four different policies that could deal with the cyberattacks. We received the scenario one month before the presentation of the policies in Stockholm on February 9, says Elin Hernborg.
The three students all have a Bachelor degree in IT Forensics and Information Security (IT-forensik och informationssäkerhet) from Halmstad University.
– Our greatest challenge was our homogenous team – we did not have a fourth member with a different perspective. The three of us are very much alike, and it was difficult to think outside the box. We performed well in the IT Forensics area, but lacked in the judicial, says Viktor Austli.
The competition broadened their perspectives and inspired the students. They all have plans for their future careers:
– I want to work as a security analytics consultant, says Elin Hernborg.
– And we are both interested in working with IT Forensics within the law enforcement or security development at a company, says Johan Brink and Viktor Austli.
Text and photo: LOUISE WANDEL
The competition was inspiring and a great way for us to build our own network
– Muhammad Shafiq Hafiz