Team Europe was the winner of the 1st International Cybersecurity Challenge (ICC 2022) concluded on Friday, June 17, in Athens, Greece. After two days of competition, the European team, which included CMU Portugal Dual Degree Ph.D. student Nuno Sabino as captain and his Supervisor, Pedro Adão, as one of the team trainers, took the trophy home.
The E.U. team counted fifteen young talents from twelve different European Union and EFTA countries, aged between 21 and 27, including Nuno Sabino: “the whole thing has been an adventure, and I feel honored to have been part of it. I was captain of the team, together with Danique, a player from the Netherlands. Part of our responsibilities involved assigning people to tasks, helping whoever is stuck on a challenge or find someone else to help, deciding who to attack (mainly in the second competition), and trying to solve some challenges ourselves.”
It all started in March 2021 when ENISA, the competition organizer, began selecting who would be part of Team Europe. Each country nominated 2 to 4 young people to be part of the initial pool of candidates. Nuno Sabino was nominated along with Manuel Sousa, both from Instituto Superior Técnico, for performing well on the European Cyber Security Challenge (ECSC). Both applications were accepted and became part of the initial pool of around 40 to 50 people from all around Europe, and all trained together in four in-person bootcamps. Through individual competitions, 15 people from 12 countries were selected to represent Europe in the 2022 ICC event.
From June 14 to 17, all worked together and did their best to achieve this fantastic result. “We played together and developed tools together for the final event. Everyone was experienced in programming and knew the usual techniques we learned in college. But somehow, I felt that each of us was bringing something different from our own countries and cultures, something that improved the overall state of our tools. I learned a lot from my team, and I feel honored to have been part of a group with such great talents,” shares Nuno.
The 2022 ICC event consisted of two main competitions. A Jeopardy-style, which consists of static challenges that each team needs to solve, and an Attack-Defense competition, a more dynamic game where each team has a common set of services running on a server and must attack other teams and patch services so that they can no longer attack you.
“This competition was also a great way to improve my leadership skills, study cybersecurity in a very practical context, and we might also open-source some of the tools we developed for common use of all CTF teams.” Nuno Sabino
At the prize-giving ceremony the team was, according to Nuno, extremely nervous: “I noticed some were shaking at least as much as me, as we had practiced intensely to be there and perform well. When they announced that Team Asia took second place and in third place was Team USA, our main competitors, we knew immediately we had won it.”
“I never had experienced so much enthusiasm and sense of accomplishment as the day when we found we were world champions.” Nuno Sabino
Nuno Sabino is currently a CMU Portugal Dual Degree Ph.D. student in Computer Science at Instituto Superior Técnico and at Carnegie Mellon, Computer Science Department, supervised in Portugal by the competition trainer, Pedro Adão (Técnico) and by Rui Maranhão (FEUP). His thesis is focused on detecting and exploiting DOM-XSS vulnerabilities, and regarding his future in Cybersecurity, he is sure to say, “definitely yes. I am not sure what I want to do after my Ph.D., but my passion is for Cybersecurity, and I intend to keep working on this area.”
The next “International Cybersecurity Challenge” (ICC) will take place in August 2023, hosted by ENISA from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and CISA in the United States of America.