Hack your way into a scholarship

Whether in P.E. class or in a video game, many of us have played capture the flag. Just in case, here is a refresher: The object of the game is for participants to capture an opponent’s flag and return it to their home base without getting caught. Sound familiar now?

This February, LSU is bringing the classic game to your computer—more specifically to your command line—with the Code IT Up Challenge. The multilevel hacking competition challenges high school students to use their coding skills to capture encrypted flags in each phase of the game and bring them back.

Multiple companies and organizations such as Microsoft and Stripe, a leading payment processor for online and mobile apps, perform their own versions of capture the flag. What makes this challenge so unique? It was built completely by LSU alumni.

Logan Leger, a 2013 computer engineering alumnus and CEO of NewAperio, worked with the LSU College of Engineering to develop the Code IT Up Challenge. “When we were thinking of ways to get prospective students more interested in the computer science program, this game was one of our top and most exciting ideas,” Leger said. “Besides, who doesn’t love to hack into things? I do; and that’s exactly what this challenge is designed to do.”

Participants will play the game by using hints and entering a secure shell into a remote server to find encrypted flags. Upon retrieval of each flag, users enter the flag’s code and get the password for the next level. Additionally, each user will receive a badge and earn a spot on the site’s leaderboard. The challenge is built for Linux, Mac and Windows.

While the hacking event should be fun, it will also be educational. Students will interact with Git, learn how to use the filesystem and understand how to use a dotfiles function. All challengers will hopefully walk away from this experience with sharpened skills, a better understanding of how code can be attacked from an outside source and a deeper appreciation for computer science.

The top three eligible winners of the Code IT Up Challenge will not only receive bragging rights, they will receive a financial scholarship from the LSU College of Engineering. Pretty sweet, right? They will be listed on a leaderboard so users know where they stand throughout the entirety of the competition. Winners are determined by the number of levels they accomplish during the challenge’s open period. In the event of a tie, players’ completion time will be the deciding factor.

Jonathan Hooper, a 2015 computer science graduate and senior engineer at NewAperio, shares the same sentiments about hacking, and thinks it is something everyone should attempt. “This game is built with the future developer in mind, but can and should be tried by someone just beginning their journey,” Hooper said. “With that being said, players shouldn’t expect to complete it in 10 minutes. It is a challenge after all!”

The event is offered to high school students of all skillsets and backgrounds from Feb. 1, 2016 until March 25, 2016. Register at http://codeitup.lsu.edu/challenge.

Questions? Email us.