Developing Future Cyber Defenders
13 Jun 2018

With a record participation of 500 local students, Cyber Defenders Discovery Camp 2018 also marked another first with seven overseas teams from six countries participating.

Organised by DSTA and supported by MINDEF and the Cyber Security Agency, the sixth edition of Cyber Defenders Discovery Camp (CDDC) 2018 took participants on an experiential learning journey honing their skills in cyber defence techniques and methodologies. The camp, which aims to raise youths’ interest in cybersecurity, was opened 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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A two-day online qualifier was conducted where 50 teams proved their worth to progress to an on-site competition, held on 11 June at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). The participants were in for an exciting but challenging time, where they 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 – by overriding a drone system.

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Team Blue Deffence from Romania

Proved to be a difficult challenge, team H4rdG4m3 from the University/Polytechnic category only managed to gain control of the drone within minutes left on the clock. The same team also 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 is an option that attracts Raffles Institution (RI) student Jaryl Ngoh and his three teammates. He said: “It is the most interesting vocation that matches our interests.”

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Beyond gaining experience in the cyberspace, DSTA cybersecurity engineers were also on-site to share their insights into a career in this field. “The students were keen to understand more about how I stay on top of emerging cyber threats and develop solutions to combat them,” 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 was heartened to see growing numbers in the competition over the years. He said: ‘The CDDC started with 100 participants in 2012 and had since grown to training 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, Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung highlighted the value of CDDC in discovering and grooming young cyber talents to defend our cyber space. He said: “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 (MOUs) with the five local Polytechnics to collaborate in curriculum development.

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 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, said: “You’d never know what to expect at CDDC, even as returning participants. Each 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 as a second-time participant after his experience last year further fuelled his interest in cybersecurity. Besides the online competition, he also appreciates the unique challenges that pushes 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.