What does a team of talented and highly motivated interns do when paired with the expertise and capability of professionals in IBM Managed Security Services? Develop an interactive IBM hacking competition, of course.

I am intrigued by the idea of matching young, capable college students with seasoned IBM professionals to create interactive events. Knowing this, Diane Delaney, a worldwide talent manager at IBM, recommended I interview Chelsea Williams, one of the interns chosen to develop the IBM hacking competition.

An Intern Dishes on the IBM Hacking Competition

Question: Can you give us an idea of what this project was all about?

Williams: Sure, it was a Capture the Flag (CTF) event and was designed to test offensive, or red team, skills of the participants. Although these skills often fall into the realm of black-hat hacking, the thought is that without knowing how to break into a system, you can’t truly know how to secure a system. Thus, a CTF allows for these skills to be tested and developed.

The CTF, which we designed, hosted 15 teams consisting of 60 IBM employees from Managed Security Services.

That sounds like a very cool project for IBM interns. How did you and your fellow interns contribute?

Well, we started off with building the hardware that was required. Then, we were involved in physically building the servers to house the required hardware. By the end of the setup, we had four physical servers racked into the lab server racks.

Once the servers were installed, the networking had to be implemented according to documentation that was designed. From that point, the infrastructure was ready to be configured for the games to start. One of the servers was designated to host Kali Linux, the operating system used by participants to interface with the rest of the environment.

We were responsible for the master virtual machine (VM), from which 20 clones were created, and each team was given its own VM. We were also responsible for the creation and testing of the various machines and challenges used throughout the CTF. We tested the challenge machines and ensured the walk-throughs were in place, just in case the teams required assistance throughout the two-week event.

Wow! What a great hands-on learning experience! What will you take away from this?

I have met and worked with some pretty incredible IBMers. We all worked tirelessly to make the CTF competition a success, which is what makes it so memorable. I have thoroughly enjoyed working as an intern for IBM, and I am very grateful to represent a company that values the input from and collaboration with students.

Everyone Wins

The winner of the IBM hacking competition was team “Boom!” — a group of security correlation engineers at IBM. But, clearly, Williams and her fellow interns will be counted among the winners as well.

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