General News

A Cybersecurity Competition for the Future

10 Jul 2019
General

Hwa Chong plays host to the inaugural Cyberthon competition helping to cultivate Singapore’s infocomm-savvy youth

By Chen Nan (19A12) and Jedrick Goh Jek Rei (19A14)

On 6th July 2019, 96 students from 15 JCs and institutions across Singapore gathered at Hwa Chong Institution for the inaugural Cyberthon, a cybersecurity competition organized by the school in collaboration with MINDEF.

As part of the Singapore Government’s ongoing efforts to build a Smart Nation, the competition aims to nurture young talents in cybersecurity, providing students with a glimpse of the important roles of a cybersecurity professional.

The competition adopted a ‘Jeopardy’-style Capture-the-Flag format, consisting of riddles and puzzles spanning everything from reverse engineering to web exploitation. It forced students out of their comfort zones, exposing them to the cutting edge of cybersecurity with the aim of empowering them to learn through such novel experiences.

The competition was designed to be accessible to students with minimal hands-on computer science experience. In fact, many participants only had a basic computing background, and the competition saw teams with a diverse range of skill sets and experiences competing as equals.

To bridge this gap, a one-day onsite training session held in Hwa Chong Institution as well as a month-long online training course before the competition were conducted. This helped provide participants an opportunity to hone their skills before the competition, ensuring everyone was on sound footing on the day of the competition.

The day itself presented a gruelling 5-hour challenge, with teams having to solve progressively harder problems that tested their ability to tackle complex issues on the fly. As first place team NUS High’s leader Wong Kok Rui put it, “while the team might have had a computer science background, I believe it was our problem-solving skills that allowed us to win.”

When quizzed on what advice he would give to next year’s competitors, Kok Rui elaborated that they should “Make sure [their] team has a diverse set of skills [...] to solve any problem” Concurring, Teo Kai Xiang of the runner-up team, Team A from Hwa Chong, advised to “Look at issues from a new perspective, then you will be ready to solve any problem” These are skills that a new generation going into cybersecurity would need to be future-ready and resilient, and they are exactly what Cyberthon is looking for.

In his opening address, HCI Principal, Mr Pang Choon How expressed the need for a fresh cohort of infocomm talents to safeguard our nation’s institutions against the evolving threats of today’s world. He expressed that “[Cyberthon aims] to bring home the message to our younger generation that they have a key role to play in the digital defence of Singapore, the sixth pillar of our Total Defence.”

As Guest-of-Honour Mr Ng Chee Khern, Permanent Secretary of Smart Nation and Digital Government at the Prime Minister’s Office put it in his speech, “We have a responsibility to ensure our talents, digital or otherwise, continue to serve and uplift society.” The ultimate aim of Cyberthon was to give these very talents amongst Singapore’s brightest youths a chance to shine. And on this day, it was clear that they did.

Cyberthon 2019 Winning Team from NUS High School of Maths and Science

From left to right: Mr Pang Choon How, Principal, Hwa Chong Institution; Xavier Low En Xiang; Tang Yetong; Wong Kok Rui; Xavier Oh Zhi Sheng; Mr Ng Chee Khern, Permanent Secretary, Smart Nation and Digital Government at the Prime Minister’s Office

Participants of Cyberthon 2019 Working Through Cybersecurity Challenges Together

Participants of Cyberthon 2019 Working Through Cybersecurity Challenges Together

 

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