Carnegie Mellon University and the National Security Agency are sponsoring an online hacking competition with the hopes of sparking interest in computer security careers.
The competition, “Toaster Wars,” which will run from April 26 to May 6, is free and open to all students in the U.S. in grades 6 through 12.
David Brumley, professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, said the game is designed to be fun and challenging, but he hopes participants come to see computer security as an excellent career choice.
The NSA, which is part of the Defense Department, is responsible for code breaking, monitoring overseas communications, and protecting the US from cyberattack.
“Toaster Wars” organizers acknowledge that world-class computer hackers don’t get such skills just by going to class, but they also note that getting such know-how on one’s own carries some legal concerns.
Brumley described the contest as a capture-the-flag-type game. Pieces of information, called flags, are encrypted or hidden somewhere difficult to find. The game includes computer forensics, cryptography, web exploitation and binary exploitation, described as “the art of bending a computer program to your will.”