- The Wordfence team recently sponsored and attended WordCamp Atlanta. Instead of doing the usual boring corporate thing with our booth, we decided to host a capture the flag, or CTF contest. A CTF is essentially a hacking contest. It is a series of puzzles that the contestant needs to solve. They might include decrypting an encrypted piece of text, performing a challenge involving a browser and website, or hacking into something we set up.
- CTFs have been held at security conferences for decades. We decided to bring a CTF to WordCamp in order to help WordPress site owners learn to think like hackers. If you know how hackers think, you can do a better job of defending your site. We made this CTF very accessible, so that people with a wide range of abilities could participate.
- The CTF started at 10am on Saturday morning and ran until noon Sunday. It was hosted online and anyone could participate, although we only promoted it to WordCamp attendees. You also had to be at WordCamp Atlanta to be eligible for a prize.
- We had some amazing prizes including coffee mugs if you passed level 1, lock pick sets if you passed level 3, and then game consoles as the top prizes including a full Playstation VR setup and game for first prize.
- It was a huge amount of fun because to promote the CTF, we gave lock picking lessons at our booth. It’s really cool to see someone pick a lock for the first time. They’re always so surprised when it pops open.
- By the time Sunday morning rolled around, we looked at the leaderboard and realized we had a real contest on our hands. A young man by the name of Grayson came to our booth and said he was competing. We asked him what his username was and were surprised to learn he went by ‘Unstoppable’ and was in 6th place. That was really impressive because we had quite a few contestants.
- I chatted with his Dad and suggested we might give him a prize for making it so far as an 11 year old. Well… that wasn’t necessary.
- At about 11:30am on Sunday, Matt Barry, our lead developer and the contest designer, started calculating who the winners were. We had to eliminate people who weren’t physically at the conference. Once we had the final list, Grayson our 11 year old contestant, had arrived in third place and he remained there as the contest ended.
- I got on stage to hand out the top three prizes to first, second and third. I told the room with about 400 people the story of how we assumed an 11 year old would need a consolation prize and that, actually he just hacked his way into third place to take one of our top prizes. The crowd went kinda wild as Grayson stepped onto the stage to collect. Here he is (published with Dad’s permission):
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