The Capture the Flag (CTF) Club at Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute was founded this year with the purpose of raising awareness and teaching students about cybersecurity. Capture the Flag is an online escape-room style puzzle where participants try to obtain a “flag”, a secret code of letters and/or numbers. Some challenges in CTF can include decoding a cipher and finding hidden clues.
As a digitally-oriented club, its virtual startup this year with a Discord server was smooth and successful. The club quickly gathered student interest, with over sixty members led by seven executive members, including Vice President William Lin and President Jonathan Wu.
When asked about the club’s goals, President Jonathan Wu said, “My goal for the club is to spread awareness of Capture the Flag, as it’s not really well known at all. In fact, we may be the only high school in the TDSB that runs a CTF Club. I find doing CTFs to be fun and a great learning experience, so I want to encourage others to give it a try!”
He also added that his goal for this year is to spread the word about the club. There will be something for all skill levels, including complete beginners. President Wu said he hopes that the club’s members will soon have skills to solve CTF puzzles, and apply their skills to the real world to examine security vulnerabilities.
As of 7 December 2020, CTF Club meetings occur on most Thursdays from 4 pm to 5 pm in a voice channel on the club’s Discord server. These drop-in meetings are most often interactive workshops about Capture the Flag techniques.
Some techniques covered in previous meetings include reading and reverse-engineering programs in many programming languages, exploring properties of prime numbers and their use in cryptography, finding vulnerabilities in a website, obtaining encrypted passwords, and recovering data from a broken or encrypted hard drive.
The Capture the Flag Club will run several contests throughout the school year, including rated contests in October, February, April, and June, and unrated contests during winter break and March break. The club has a point system in place with prizes that rewards students who do well in rated contests, as well as random draws in February and June for frequent participants.
“In terms of the future, we are hoping to expand further and collaborate with other schools to run CTF clubs. We will likely also cover more advanced topics, run more contests, and we might have some secret fun prepared for when clubs are allowed to run in-person again,” President Wu stated.
The CTF Club also has a bug bounty program to reward anyone who can hack their website. As of 7 December 2020, nobody has been successful yet.
This educational and enjoyable club has become a popular activity for students. Grace Pu, a Grade 9 member of the club, said, “I joined MGCI’s CTF club as it seemed quite fun and that I could learn things that I would not learn otherwise. CTFs are little puzzles, sort of like an escape room, except it can all be done from the comfort of your home. I look forward to having fun and learning about new tools and ways to solve these puzzles.”
Here’s a puzzle provided by the Capture the Flag Club. If you have fun solving it, you should consider joining: “all your base are belong to us: Y3Rme2pvaW5fY3RmX2NsdWJfdG9kYXl9.”
Any students who are interested in joining the MGCI Capture the Flag Club this year can join the Discord server to participate in meetings and learn more about cybersecurity.
The CTF Club Discord server’s invite link is discord.gg/5mzA2EFuHC.
The CTF Club website can be found at ctfmgci.pythonanywhere.com.