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DSU team takes 1st at national challenge

August 13, 2020

DEF CON 28 CTF first place winners include (clockwise from top left): Eric Holm, Cody Welu, Tyler Flaagan , Shawn Zwach, and Andrew Kramer.
DEF CON 28 OpenSOC first place winners include (clockwise from top left): Eric Holm, Cody Welu, Tyler Flaagan , Shawn Zwach, and Andrew Kramer.

Dakota State students often place well in cyber competitions, but the team that captured first place in a DEF CON contest in August was made up of DSU faculty and staff members.

Cody Welu, Andrew Kramer, Tyler Flaagan, Shawn Zwach, and Eric Holm made up the team that took first place in a CTF (Capture the Flag) challenge at DEF CON 28 August 7-9.

The five-member team competed in a virtual OpenSOC event, along with nearly 900 participants, making it the largest defensive CTF event in the world.  OpenSOC is a Digital Forensics, Incident Response (DFIR), and Threat Hunting Challenge meant to teach and test practical incident response skills in an environment that is very close to a real-life response situation.

The theme for DEF CON 28 was “Discovery,” and one of the team’s biggest discoveries was that they can still be successful at events such as this while working at a distance, said  Shawn Zwach, instructor of computer and cyber sciences in The Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences.

“We were all connected via video for the duration of the event and the communication seemed to flow almost as well as it has when we’ve competed in person,” he said. The five competed in a CTF at the Wild West Hackin’ Fest in October and placed first in that competition as well.

Participation in events such as these helps them professionally.

“I think our industry partnerships and private endeavors keep our experience relevant, as do the constant changes we make to our classes, but events like this help us validate that and see what new techniques and technologies are available from a different perspective,” Zwach stated.

OpenSOC has hosted a training, talk, and CTF at DSU’s annual DakotaCon. Eric Capuano, the head of the OpenSOC CTF competition, was a speaker at DakotaCon 8 in 2018.

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