India’s First Ethical Hacking Contest at Amrita

Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham recently conducted India’s first national online Capture the Flag (CTF) style hacking contest with support from VeriSign Security Solutions.

The contest, which officially began on February 15, 2010, saw 280 teams from 19 different Indian states compete in preliminary rounds before coming to a close earlier this month. The final round had 30 contestant teams.


“The contest enabled us to learn many techniques to ensure that we write secure code that cannot be easily compromised,” expressed members of one of the participating teams.

“After this contest, some of us are considering careers in Ethical Hacking,” added some others.

Ethical Hacking, has caught on as an area of expertise, after many IT companies have started emphasizing security measures and concerns. This contest was designed so that even a participant without basic knowledge about hacking could participate and learn.

“The main aim of this contest was to spread awareness among the student community about cyber security and secure coding practices,” explained Mr. Vipin Pavithran of Amrita, one of the contest’s key organizers.

“Even though there are specifics on hacking in the study syllabus, students mis-conceptualize and don’t usually grasp the details in an appropriate manner,” he elaborated.


Mr. Vipin further explained the contest methodology.

“We developed multiple applications that had security loop-holes and these applications were packaged in a virtual operating system image. The encrypted image was sent to participants who were asked to use the security concepts they learned, to attack and defend.”

“A team attempted to capture flags (a string that is placed by a game server at fixed intervals of time in all the teams machine) from their opponents’ machines and submit them to a central flag submission server to earn points.”

“Teams scored based both on their success in defending their assigned systems and their success in attacking other teams’ machines. Each team’s attacking and defending strategies were evaluated.”


In the final round, teams were connected through a virtual network.

Expressed one of the teams that made it to the finals, “We had participated in many online hacking competitions before, but never in a CTF. The setting up of the Virtual Private Network and configuring it were really exciting.”

Students from BITS Goa, placed first while Model Engineering College, Ernakulum came in second. The College of Engineering, Guindy secured the third place.

These winning teams were awarded cash prizes of Rs. 40,000, 30,000 and 20,000 respectively, courtesy the industry sponsor, VeriSign Security Solutions.

October 28, 2010
School of Engineering, Amritapuri

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