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April 2: Carnegie Mellon Student Team Competes In Global Electronic Computer War Games


Chriss Swaney        

Carnegie Mellon Student Team Competes
In Global Electronic Computer War Games

teamPITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University engineering and computer science students are putting their computer skills to competitive use as members of the award-winning "Capture The Flag" team.
David Brumley, an assistant professor in the university's Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department and Carnegie Mellon CyLab, said "Capture The Flag" is a computer security war game in which each participating team or individual competes to find a key source of information by solving a litany of challenging problems.
"The game and the team concept is great because it allows students to hone skills and better understand web hacking, binary reverse engineering, exploitation of information, forensics and cryptography," said Brumley, the team's advisor.
Brian Pak, a junior in computer science, said the team is focused on building new skills and learning to work and compete in a global environment. Typical challenges include finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in programs and breaking encrypted messages.
"It has really been a wonderful learning experience because each competition is different and we get to expand our knowledge base," said Sang Kil Cha, an ECE Ph.D. student.
In addition to Pak and Cha, team members include: Joseph Lee, a freshman in ECE; Tyler Nighswander, a freshman in computer science; Ricky Zhou, a sophomore in computer science; David Kohlbrenner, a junior in computer science; Andrew Wesie, a junior in computer science; Information Networking Institute master's degree students Jonathan Cooke and Joseph Ceirante; Ed Schwartz, Thanassis Avgerinos, Andrew Tran and Jiyong Jang, all Ph.D. students in ECE; JongHyup Lee, a post- doctoral researcher at Carnegie Mellon CyLab; and Michael Stroucken and Ivan Jager, both staffers in ECE.
Team members have competed in more than seven international competitions during the 2009-2010 academic year. They have placed in the top four spots in all but one competition. And they earned first place in the 8th Annual HUST Creative and Fun Capture the Flag Competition in Seoul, South Korea, last year. The competitions are grueling, often lasting up to 48 hours.
"The latest accomplishment was beating out more than 100 other teams and placing first in the qualifying rounds of CodeGate. That placement won them four airline tickets to the final round hosted in Seoul, South Korea. I know they will make Carnegie Mellon proud," Brumley said.  
For more on the competition, visit the team's Web site at


Pictured above is Carnegie Mellon's "Capture The Flag" team, "Plaid Parliament of Pwning."