Carnegie Mellon University
November 15, 2011

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon University Students Win Global Cybersecurity Contests

Contact: Chriss Swaney / 412-268-5776 /

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University engineering and computer science students are using their competitive skills to rack up global victories as members of CMU's "Capture the Flag" team. Capture the Flag (CTF) 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 challenges.

In the last four weeks, the CMU CTF team has won two prestigious contests. On Oct. 24 they won the SecuInside CTF contest in South Korea, winning $30,000. Last week, they entered two teams at the Polytechnic Institute of New York (NYU-Poly) CSAW contest and took first- and second-place, netting another $1,750.

"The SecuInside contest was an attack-defense competition, so our goal was to take a server running a set of services (with each team getting identical servers), fix vulnerabilities quickly, and exploit the other team's vulnerabilities before they get theirs fixed," said Team President Tyler Nighswander, a senior computer science major.

"These competitions and team-building challenges help our students build new skills and learn to be competitive in an ever expanding global work environment," said David Brumley, team adviser and a recent recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award — the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on young engineers and scientists.  

Brumley, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, praised his team and pointed out that the international competitions also allow students to better understand Web hacking, binary reverse engineering, forensics and cryptography.

In addition to Nighswander, other team members include Matt Dickoff, a junior in electrical and computer engineering; Andrew Wesie and Ricky Zhou, both juniors in computer science; and Brian Pak, a sophomore in computer science.

For more information, please visit the team's website at