Bridging the Skills Gap with Trend Micro’s Capture the Flag (CTF) Competition

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We all know the IT security industry is suffering from chronic skills gaps and shortages around the world. In the US things are no different, with an estimated talent shortfall of around 40,000 jobs for information security analyst roles alone. While various initiatives have been proposed, few have managed to make a dent on the growing problem.

That’s where Trend Micro’s Capture the Flag (CTF) competition comes in, offering a fantastic way for IT and security professionals to enhance and expand their skill sets. Through initiatives like this we have a real opportunity to better equip the industry with the skills it needs to combat modern online threats.

A skills crisis

The skills problem is well on its way to becoming a full-blown crisis. Citing UK government research, industry non-profit ISACA has predicted there will be a global shortage of two million cybersecurity professionals by 2019. Meanwhile, the Center for Cyber Safety and Education’s Global Information Security Workforce Study claimed the shortfall will be 1.8m in five years’ time. It warned of a looming “skills cliff edge” as older professionals go into retirement with a lack of suitable replacements coming through from younger generations.

In short, there are far too few professionals entering the industry and, partly as a result, many of those that are just starting out don’t have the hands-on experience or skills to turn themselves into effective cybersecurity practitioners. The issue is particularly acute when we break it down by gender. In fact, only 14 percent of the North American cybersecurity workforce are women, slightly higher than the global average of 11 percent but still regrettably low and certainly not equivocal to other industries.

It doesn’t take much effort to join the dots. We need more skilled cybersecurity professionals to keep data safe and systems secure amid a rapidly evolving threat landscape. Organizations today are facing an unprecedented barrage of online threats. From targeted attacks to zero day threats, DDoS attacks to SCADA and IoT threats – the sheer volume and breadth of challenges facing industry professionals today is staggering. They’re battling a diverse and determined set of online foes, from hacktivists to state sponsored hackers and traditional financially motivated cybercriminals. Then there are insider threats to manage and the complexities of hybrid cloud, IoT, bring your own device (BYOD) and other systems which have only served to expand the organization’s attack surface even further.

Capture the Flag

That’s why Trend Micro’s Capture the Flag competition is back for a third year. The idea is to support and enhance the practical skills of IT and security professionals, of today and the future, stretching their knowledge into new areas including targeted attacks, IoT threats and attacks on Industrial Control Systems (ICS). The hope is that by supporting the development of engineers and programmers in these kinds of areas – which we’re seeing a lot of demand for – we can make the world a safer place in which to exchange digital information.

So what is it and how do you enter?

The competition comes in two stages, an online qualifying event and the finals to be held in Tokyo.

The online qualifier is in a “Jeopardy” format, requiring participants to solve challenges in various categories. The top 10 teams will then advance to compete in the final. This will comprise a combination of “attack and defence” and Jeopardy formats.

The final winning team will be awarded JPY 1,000,000 (around US$8,700), Zero Day Initiative Rewards Program points, and automatic qualification for the HITCON CTF 2017 Final to be held in Taipei, Taiwan.

For the final, players’ three night accommodation will be covered by Trend Micro. In addition, travel expense will be subsidized for a maximum of JPY200,000 per team (conditions apply.) Whether experienced or new to the field, or working in IT, security, or manufacturing, Trend Micro CTF welcomes anyone who would like to test, learn and enhance their knowledge and skillset.

Our late CTO Raimund Genes was a passionate advocate of cybersecurity and the need for our industry to attract and nurture the best talent, so it’s fitting that Trend Micro CTF 2017 is now named the Raimund Genes Cup.

To register for the online qualifier and for more information about Trend Micro CTF 2017 – Raimund Genes Cup, please visit: