Carnegie Mellon University
October 17, 2014

CMU To Host Second Annual Nationwide High School Computer Security Contest, Oct. 27-Nov. 7

By Daniel Tkacik / 412-268-1187

PITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University Professor David Brumley and two student teams will host the second annual PicoCTF competition, a nationwide online computer security contest aimed to help high school students learn the basics of hacking in the context of a story-driven game.

The competition, which drew nearly 2,000 teams from 1,000 schools last year, will be held Oct. 27-Nov. 7 at

"The main goal of this competition is to excite young minds about computer security and inspire the next generation of computer scientists in our country," said Brumley, a professor of electrical and computer engineering and the technical director of Carnegie Mellon CyLab, a world leader in research and education in information assurance, security technology, business and policy, and security awareness. Building on more than two decades of Carnegie Mellon leadership in information technology, CyLab is a university-wide initiative that involves over 50 faculty and 100 graduate students from more than six different departments and schools.

Brumley will co-host the event with Carnegie Mellon student hacking teams Plaid Parliament of Pwning of CyLab and Team Daedalus of CMU's Entertainment Technology Center.

PicoCTF challenges both novices and experts through a "Capture the Flag" (CTF) interactive game, in which participants capture virtual "flags" by reverse engineering, breaking, hacking or decrypting challenges. Unlike traditional exams or courses, the contest offers open-ended problems that can be solved in many ways, usually requiring independent research and encouraging student exploration.

There will be over $30,000 in prizes for this year's event, as well as new tools designed to help teachers participate in PicoCTF as a classroom activity. Winners of the competition will be flown to Carnegie Mellon for an immersion day and award presentation.

Participation in the competition is free and open to students in grades 6-12. Interested participants can register on the competition website at

The event is partially supported by funds from Trend Micro, The Boeing Company, Qualcomm Incorporated, the National Science Foundation, and the National Security Agency.