MITRE’s Embedded Capture the Flag Competition Offers Hands-On Experience in Semiconductor Cybersecurity
McLean, Va., and Bedford, Mass., April 27, 2023 — Yesterday, competitors, organizers, and sponsors gathered in person for the first time in three years to celebrate the completion of MITRE’s 2023 Embedded Capture the Flag (eCTF) Competition. The awards ceremony, sponsored by Fortinet, provided an opportunity for the top student competitors to share their accomplishments, meet participants from other schools, and interact with MITRE and eCTF partners and sponsors.
As the world becomes increasingly dependent on microelectronics, applications and devices become more vulnerable to malicious actors. The eCTF competition exposes and prepares a new generation of engineering professionals to challenges and opportunities in this multibillion-dollar market. In its eighth year, the eCTF Competition had 540 students from 60 colleges and 20 high schools in 2023—a 150% increase in participation from 2022. While most teams were from the United States, teams from universities in Scotland, the Netherlands, India, Singapore, and Zambia also participated.
“As the United States makes historic investments to secure global leadership in microelectronics and semiconductors, we need to attract and train a diverse workforce that can ensure we’re developing highly capable chips and protect them from attacks,” said Laurie Giandomenico, Ph.D., MITRE vice president and chief acceleration officer. “We’re thrilled to see these students innovate to address critical security challenges and will continue to provide opportunities for tomorrow’s workforce to hone their skills today.”
A competition unlike any other
Within a competitive environment, MITRE’s eCTF develops practical skills for securing critical embedded systems, such as uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAVs), smart grids, and medical devices. The realistic competition balances offense and defense with an innovative program you won’t find in standard attack-only CTFs.
In the 2023 competition, teams designed and implemented a key fob system for a car door lock. The system needed to protect the car from unauthorized entry and prevent attacks such as replays and key fob cloning. Teams earned points by conducting successful attacks and by withstanding the attacks of other teams.
The 2023 eCTF Competition Winners
- First place overall, winning $2,000 — Carnegie Mellon University
- Second place overall, winning $1,000 — University of California, Santa Cruz
- Third place overall, winning $500 — University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
- Exemplary Write-up, winning $500 — University of New Haven
- Hardware Hacker, winning $500 — Carnegie Mellon University
- Best Poster, winning $500 — Purdue University
“The eCTF competition allows students to develop real-world problem-solving skills with direct experience in project management, cybersecurity, cryptography, and embedded systems,” said Maverick Woo, CyLab Project Scientist at Carnegie Mellon. “The semester-long challenge is an opportunity to learn hard and soft skills often not taught in classroom environments. Our students find the eCTF competition to be fun. I believe this fun factor is what keeps them engaged to continue their learning.”
Supporting the future of the embedded security workforce
New this year, MITRE Engenuity™ invited external sponsors to support the competition, allowing more students to participate. 2023 sponsorship included Platinum Sponsors Analog Devices, Crowdstrike, and Fortinet; Gold Sponsor Boston Cybernetics Institute; and Bronze Sponsor Rambus.
“Our involvement in this event is allowing us to see firsthand the next generation of embedded security professionals—an in-demand demographic that is notoriously difficult to recruit,” said Hossein Jazi, senior cyber threat intelligence specialist at Fortinet. “Congratulations to all participants on a job well done.”
MITRE’s mission-driven teams are dedicated to solving problems for a safer world. Through our public-private partnerships and federally funded R&D centers, we work across government and in partnership with industry to tackle challenges to the safety, stability, and well-being of our nation.
About MITRE Engenuity
MITRE Engenuity, a subsidiary of MITRE, is a tech foundation for the public good. MITRE Engenuity brings MITRE’s deep technical know-how and systems thinking to the private sector to solve complex challenges that government alone cannot solve. MITRE Engenuity catalyzes the collective R&D strength of the broader U.S. federal government, academia, and private sector to tackle national and global challenges, such as protecting critical infrastructure, creating a resilient semiconductor ecosystem, building a genomics center for public good, accelerating use case innovation in 5G, and democratizing threat-informed cyber defense.
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