NW3C News

NW3C is offering a free Capture The Flag (CTF) challenge to test your OSINT skills!

by User Not Found | Oct 02, 2020
Join in the fun with our freshest quarterly CTF! This CTF competition will allow you to test your OSINT skills during daily challenges starting October 4th at 8:00 AM Eastern. You will compete against other industry professionals to earn a spot in the top three. After a week of cyber hunting and open source drills, we get to celebrate our OSINT practitioners, sharing the tactics and clues to each challenge.


Who can participate? 
Anyone can participate in this CTF event at any skill level. The challenge is meant for individual participation. Teams will not be eligible to win any prizes.

When is the competition?
CTF will begin Sunday, October 4th at 8:00am Eastern and end Sunday, October 11th at 3:00pm Eastern. Winners will be announced on Monday, October 12th. 

Where do I complete the challenges?
You will complete these challenges virtually at nw3.ctfd.io.

How much does it cost to participate?
Registration for CTF is FREE.

What are the prizes?
As an exclusive offer to those who participate, there are PRIZES that will be awarded to the top 3 CTF finishers courtesy of the Hetherington Group!
1st place: $100 Amazon gift card
2nd place: $50 Amazon gift card
3rd place:
$25 Amazon gift card 

What is CTF?
If you're new to participating in CTF competitions, it can seem overwhelming! You may even find yourself looking at a challenge and wondering, “How do I even begin? What kind of file is it? Wait! Wait! Something is broken.” Let this page serve as a calm place to get started. Trust us when we say each challenge works. Once a challenge is developed, it is audited by an audit team, and then once more by a review team prior to going live, so each challenge is solvable.

Each challenge can be solved using free and open source tools on any of the big three platforms: Windows, macOS, and Linux. In fact, when creating the challenges, the development team tests it on all three platforms before it is turned over to the audit team.

Great, but that still doesn't answer the question about what a CTF is! A CTF can be tons of different things, most often it is a question or series of questions of one or more topics.  This CTF in particular, encompasses topics consistent with digital forensics and incident response (or DFIR for short).

CTF challenges often require the same mentality needed to solve a riddle or a puzzle. In this CTF specifically, we ask questions which may require repairing a file header, using something like Base-64 to decode a BLOB, solving a crossword puzzle, or figuring out the cryptographic scheme to recover a password. Challenges have been modified to impede using automated tools for analysis.

If you have never seen a CTF before, this is a great introduction, and we invite you to check out a favorite CTF of the NW3C High-Tech Crime Section, the Flare-On Challenge hosted annually by FireEye.

We recommend the following tools to start your capture the flag tool kit:

        Terminal Emulator
                Terminal (Preview)
                macOS and Linux default terminal emulators are superb
        Text Editor
        SQLite Database Utility
                DB Browser for SQLite
        Archiving Utility
        Recursive Search and Inspection Tool
                Windows Subsystem for Linux
               CyberChef, what toolkit is complete without a swiss army knife?

How do I earn points?
As the challenges progress you may be wondering, "How do I earn points? How does user A have more points than me after one day?" and "I want all the points, how do I get them?"

Rest easy friends, we are here to describe the scoring system for the NW3C CTF.

  • Each challenge is worth a minimum of two (2) points"
    • Every challenge will have at least one flag that needs to be recovered; every flag recovered is worth a minimum of two (2) points.
    • Some challenges will have multiple flags that need recovered; each flag in the challenge is worth a minimum of two (2) points.
    • Some challenges are considered "compound" and require several steps to solve a single flag; these flags will have a higher point value.
  • Bonus points will be awarded to the first users to completely solve a challenge:
    • The first user to completely solve a challenge will be awarded two (2) bonus points.
    • The second and third users to completely solve a challenge will be awarded one (1) bonus point each.
    • Bonus points are added manually; they may not show up upon immediate completion of challenge.
  • After the solution video is posted, challenges are no longer worth a point value, though you can still answer them!
  • Accumulated points will be reset at the end of the current competition.
  • Please submit questions concerning scoring to ctf@nw3c.org.

How do I check the scoreboard?
You can view the scoreboard here.

Need assistance?
While any CTF competition can be difficult, we at the NW3C understand sometimes the difficulty is not one of the challenges, but rather something malfunctioning with the system. Please do not use the technical assistance request feature at www.nw3c.org. This is a separate website and asking for help on a challenge does not warrant as a technical assistance request through the NW3C. During this challenge we will not give hints, advice, or assistance on the problems. If the file download hashes correct, you have the right file, the answer may not be straightforward. However, it is there! If the NW3C CTF team has determined a hint should be given, it will be provided in the question.

If you are having trouble specifically with your nw3.ctfd.io account or you are incapable of downloading the needed file for the challenge. Please contact us at ctf@nw3c.org and state the issue and provide screenshots if possible, to aid our team in assisting you.

These challenges are intended to help improve your skill set and keep you sharp! These are intended to be solved by the participant alone without the help of others. Neither the NW3C staff nor its contractors will offer assistance in the solving of these challenges.

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