World's Biggest Student-Led Cyber Security Games Expand to Israel

The world's biggest student-run cyber security event will get even bigger this year: Cyber Security Awareness Week (CSAW), founded 14 years ago by the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, announced it will expand to Israel, which will become the fifth country to host the final rounds of competitions that test the skills of thousands of future cyber sleuths and protectors.


Students – from high school through doctoral candidates – can begin registering for the preliminary rounds of the varied contests in the hope that they will win a chance to play among the world's best in the final rounds of competition November 9-17, 2017, in Brooklyn, Abu Dhabi, France, India, and Israel. Also for the first time this year, students from Canada and Mexico can qualify for the finals in Brooklyn. 


Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva (BGU) will be one of five global hubs for the event's signature competition, Capture the Flag (CTF). CSAW Israel, organised by BGU's Department of Software and Information Systems Engineering and the IBM Cyber Security Center of Excellence (CCoE), is accepting registrations for the qualification round on September 3-8, 2017. The CSAW CTF finals in Israel will be held November 16-17, 2017 at the BGU campus in Beer-Sheva. Final rounds at the other global hubs will be November 9-11. 


In 2016, NYU Tandon joined with the NYU Abu Dhabi Center for Cyber Security, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-Kanpur) to widen CSAW beyond Brooklyn, New York, for the first time by staging simultaneous final rounds for students in the Middle East, North Africa, and India. Earlier this year, Grenoble INP - Esisar, based in Valence, France, part of the Grenoble Institute of Technology, became the European hub for CSAW. 


In 2012, Ben-Gurion University became the first Israeli university and one of the first in the world to offer graduate study tracks in cyber securityIBM's Cyber Security Center of Excellence at BGU, established in 2014, is a home for an influential team of IBM security researchers and engineers who investigate emerging cyber threats and solutions in collaboration with BGU researchers.  


The Cyber Security Research Center at BGU conducts applied cyber security research. It is located in the new Advanced Technologies Park in the Negev, Israel's new 'cyber alley.'  


“The launch of a new CSAW hub at Ben-Gurion University reflects the spirit of the collaborative innovation between IBM and the university," said Dr. Yaron Wolfsthal, director of IBM's Cyber Center of Excellence at BGU. “This collaboration has previously had many forms, such as joint research on cognitive computing methods for cyber security, and participation of IBM's National CERT analysts in BGU educational programmes. The latest introduction of the local CTF competition in Beer-Sheva makes our partnership even more influential in establishing Israel as a cyber security leader." 


“I believe that the new CSAW initiative with IBM in collaboration with the BGU Software and Information Systems Engineering Department (SISE) and the BGU Cyber Security Research Center is a great opportunity for the advancement of cyber security research at BGU," said Prof. Bracha Shapira, head of the SISE Department. 


NYU Tandon, NYU Abu Dhabi, Grenoble INP - Esisar, and IIT-Kanpur are now also accepting registrations for the CSAW elimination rounds in September, which last year pitted more than 10,000 students – from high schools through doctoral programmes – against global competitors, all working from their own computers. The competitions will challenge their knowledge of virtually every aspect of information security, from hardware and software penetration testing and protection to digital forensics and government policy.  


This year, the best students from India, parts of the Middle East and North Africa, Europe, the United States, Canada, and Mexico will participate in the final rounds, which will be held November 9-11, 2017. Travel awards and prizes vary by region.  


At the regional CSAW campuses, students will network with top professionals who serve as judges, hear experts address emerging issues, meet recruiters eager to fill what is expected to be a shortfall of 1.5 million cyber security professionals by 2020, and face tough competition from teams from other schools. 


The CSAW games were founded by Professor Nasir Memon of the NYU Tandon Department of Computer Science and Engineering and his students. Students continue to design the contests under the mentorship of information security professionals and faculty and run them from NYU Tandon's student-led Offensive Security, Incident Response and Internet Security (OSIRIS) lab, home also to weekly Hack Nights. 


“Since data knows no borders, and national boundaries offer no impediment to attackers, data security is indeed a global issue," said Ramesh Karri, professor of electrical and computer engineering at NYU Tandon and lead faculty member for CSAW. “Collaboration is critical: those who protect our personal privacy and institutions must transcend borders and work across regions. A key challenge will be cultivating new data-security talent to meet demand; CSAW's expansion to Israel and four other global hubs is an acknowledgement of the important role white-hat competitions play in cultivating that talent worldwide."  


Each of the regional CSAW conferences will have a slightly varied agenda in terms of competitions and events. Winners of the final rounds can walk away with cash prizes, scholarships, and more. Bragging rights are often the biggest motivator – CSAW has become a boldface line for recruiters and university admissions officers. The roster of events (with registration available at linked websites) includes: 

Capture the Flag (CTF) hacking competition – the cornerstone challenge attracts upwards of 10,000 remote players each year and provides entry- and mid-level problems to solve at the preliminary stage. Students compete against professionals and amateurs of all ages in the remote round, which — excepting CTF in Israel — takes place September 15-17. Only the best teams qualify for the 36-hour-long marathon of the final round, which is notoriously difficult. Players who will qualify for CTF Finals at Tandon, NYUAD, IITK, and Esisar will all register and play at the above hyperlinked site.
High School Forensics – The entryway into cyber security, this competition attracts students who enjoy solving puzzles, in this case a fictional murder mystery involving a cybercrime syndicate. To encourage newcomers, NYU Tandon offers scholarships to all teams who qualify for the CSAW North America Finals.
Embedded Security Challenge – In the world's oldest hardware hacking contest, a Blue Team from NYU Tandon designs a target system. Everyone else – Red Teams – will hack it, to mimic real-world attacks. The finalists will present their findings to security experts in this challenging, research-oriented contest. This year's challenge will focus on making legacy programmable logic controllers (PLCs) more resilient to current cyber security threats.
Applied Research Competition – To participate in what is recognised as the most prestigious Best Paper Award for young researchers, doctoral students must submit papers that have already been published in peer-reviewed journals or presented at conferences.
Law & Policy Competition – Challenging contestants to think about the big picture of law, policy, economics, and governance, the 2017 competition requires students to develop a policy paper proposing whether investigative methods that use computer code should be disclosed to criminal defendants.
Security Quiz – Held during the finals, this academic bowl-style trivia contest challenges students on technical knowledge as well as history and current events in cyber security. Teams will face off across three rounds. The teams that emerge from the semi-finals will compete for top place in a finals tournament just before the CSAW Awards ceremony.
Cyber Security Journalism Award – New for 2017, this award recognises excellence in reporting on cyber security across all journalistic categories. This competition is a joint project of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the NYU Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.

The 2017 CSAW in North America is supported by Gold Sponsors IBMPalo Alto Networks, and the Office of Naval Research; Silver Sponsor BAE Systems; Bronze Sponsors BloombergJane StreetJefferiesJP Morgan Chase; Supporting Sponsors CubicRhymetec, the Ruth & Jerome A. Siegel Foundation, and the United States Secret Service; and Contributing Sponsors Applied Computer Security Associates and CTFd.

For more information and to register, visit Follow @CSAW_NYUTandon