Nurturing Future Cyber Defenders

Check out CDDC 2018 event highlights here.

Beyond a record 500 local student participants, Cyber Defenders Discovery Camp (CDDC) 2018 also marked another first with seven overseas teams from six countries.

Organised by DSTA and supported by MINDEF and the Cyber Security Agency, the sixth edition of CDDC took participants on an experiential learning journey to hone their skills in cyber defence techniques and methodologies. The camp, which aims to raise youths' interest in cybersecurity, was open to students beyond our shores for the first time.

The usual classroom-training sessions were moved online, where the comprehensive three-week programme introduced cybersecurity methodologies such as monitoring networks and systems, responding to cyber incidents and analysing forensic evidence.

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After a two-day online qualifier, 50 teams proved their worth and progressed to an on-site competition held at the Singapore University of Technology and Design on 11 June 2018. The participants were in for an exciting but challenging time, which required them to put their newly mastered skills to the test in a realistic IT environment that simulated current trends and threats. This year, teams even had the chance to take the competition to the next level – overriding a drone system.

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Team Blue Deffence from Romania

That task proved to be a difficult challenge, and team H4rdG4m3 from the University/Polytechnic category only managed to gain control of the drone with mere minutes left on the clock. The same team went on to win the first place of their category.

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Gabriel Wong from SUTD and Ang Zhi Yuan from NUS took over the drone system and gained control of the machine.

For some of the younger participants from the Junior College/Integrated Programme category, winning the competition would also give them the opportunity to do national service as a cyber defender in the military. It was an option that attracted Raffles Institution (RI) student Jaryl Ngoh and his three teammates. He said: "It is the most interesting vocation that matches our interests."

Beyond gaining experience in the cyberspace, the participants were also able to gain further insights into a career in the field with the help of DSTA cybersecurity engineers who were on-site to share their personal experiences.

"The students were keen to understand more about security beyond the traditional IT networks, and how we strive to deal with cyber threats in these domains," said CDDC mentor and Senior Engineer (Cybersecurity) Pang Hong Ming.

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In his speech during the award ceremony, Chairman of CDDC 2018 and Director Cybersecurity Tan Ah Tuan said that he was heartened to see growing numbers in the competition over the years. He added: "The CDDC started with 100 participants in 2012, and it has since grown to train 500 youths in cyber defence skills and techniques. In keeping pace with the evolving cyber landscape, we are constantly seeking new and innovative ways to interest and challenge our participants."

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Giving the keynote address, the Guest of Honour and Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung highlighted the value of CDDC in discovering and grooming young cyber talents to defend our cyber space. He explained: "This camp is part of a much larger effort to uncover and develop cyber talents in Singapore."

He also emphasised the need to build a strong relationship between the academia and the industry, citing DSTA's upcoming Memorandums of Understanding with the five local Polytechnics to collaborate in curriculum development.

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After the award presentation ceremony, Minister Ong also tried his hand at the challenges – with some help from the winning teams!

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The JC/IP/ITE Champion team, comprising students from RI, demonstrated how attackers could bypass a biometric scanner.

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The Uni/Poly Champion team, comprising students from the National University of Singapore and SUTD, showed Minister Ong how they took over a drone system.

Ang Zhi Yuan from SUTD, a member of champion team H4rdG4m3, is no stranger to the competition. The two-time participant said: "You never know what to expect at CDDC, even as returning participants. Every year, there is always something new to learn and more difficult problems to conquer. It is extremely fulfilling to take these new skills I've learnt and apply them strategically to solve these challenges."

For Zhang Weiyao from RI, being able to compete in a realistic environment is what sets CDDC apart from other similar competitions. A member of champion team sHrACK, Weiyao returned to the competition for a second time after his experience last year further fuelled his interest in cybersecurity. Besides the online competition, he also appreciated the unique challenges that pushed the participants to come up with out-of-the-box solutions. It was also his team that broke the 5-year streak of unsuccessful attempts to hack the biometric scanner, since it was included as part of CDDC back in 2013.

He said: "CDDC allows participants to tinkle with systems that we encounter in our daily lives, and this made me realise how important cybersecurity is in safeguarding our critical infrastructure."

 

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