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Cybersecurity Competitions and CTFs

Anderson University students compete in cybersecurity competitions every semester. These cybersecurity competitions are known as Capture the Flag (CTF) competitions. In these competitions, students are given cybersecurity challenges that are widespread in difficulty and topic. If a student successfully solves the challenge, they receive a “flag” and submit that flag for points. The number of points is relative to the difficulty of the challenge. The final placement of the competition is determined by who has the most points at the end of the competition.

Common Topics

Open Source Intelligence: Discovering information freely available online

Cryptography: Breaking codes and decrypting encrypted and secret data

Password Cracking: Discovering plaintext passwords from encrypted password hashes

Log Analysis: Examining log files to determine what has happened on the computer

Network Traffic Analysis: Examining network traffic to determine what data was sent over the network

Web Application Exploitation: Break into web applications, databases, and servers

Scanning: Discovering and interacting with live systems somewhere in the world

Enumeration and Exploitation: Reverse engineering scripts, programs, and binary files

Practices and Training

Students have access to weekly in-person practices where students can learn new topics or collaborate with other students attempting to solve challenges. Students also have access to an internal Anderson University competition training platform that has ~400 challenges for students to solve.

Prospective students should take a look at another training platform that is freely available to everyone This will help prospective students get a feel of what the Anderson University practices and competitions are like. It should be noted that the internal Anderson University competition training platform has many more challenges and include more difficult challenges and topics.

“Anderson University’s homemade CTF practice platform has proven to be a fundamental part of our team’s success. Challenges are given that benefit beginners, along with pushing the boundaries for seasoned competitors. By participating in a collaborative environment, students are able to learn from each other, and build upon one another’s successes.” – Competitor and Cybersecurity Student Eric Watkins

Why Students Should Compete?

Students should consider competing as it is another way to develop their technical cybersecurity skills. Students greatly enjoy the rigor of the practices and competitions. Students also enjoy the celebration and satisfaction of successfully solving challenges.

Employers hiring cybersecurity students (as interns or professionals) find value in CTF experiences. CTF experience is another way to show employers that students have taken the initiative to develop themselves and how they rank against other students and applicants.

“Increasingly, companies are looking to hire cybersecurity students with CTF accomplishments. We recently had a student earn a high-value internship where the company shared that she was the only candidate with National Cyber League experience, and she got the job.” – Anderson University Center for Cybersecurity Director Dr. Kenneth Knapp

Faculty Coach

Dr. Brandon P. Grech is the faculty coach. Before joining Anderson University, Dr. Grech was a cybersecurity engineer at CERT/SEI/Carnegie Mellon University where he created cybersecurity educational content, hands-on labs, and challenges for military and government cybersecurity professionals. Specifically, Dr. Grech has been involved in challenge development for the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition Seasons 1-5 (Executive Order 13870).

Prospective students who are interested in learning more about Anderson University’s cybersecurity competition teams should reach out to Dr. Grech at

Past Stories


"The CTF practices and training sessions are such a blast! Students learn new cybersecurity topics and work together towards a common goal. Their growth is seen in them as a person and in their rising in the cybersecurity competition rankings over their semesters here at AU.”