Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag competition

Capture the Flag or CTF is a traditional hacker competition or digital war game. The first public CTF competition was held in 1996 at DEFCON in Las Vegas, Nevada. Since 1996, Capture the Flag competitions have grown in popularity at information security conferences worldwide. The goals of Capture the Flag are simple—outthink, outwit, outhack your opponents. The complexity of these competitions can range from entry-level activities, such as password cracking or configuring firewalls to more advance-level skills, such a creating custom exploits to obtain a flag or designing and deploying cyber deception mechanisms.

The traditional type of Capture the Flag competition is the attack and defend model. This model can be played in multiple ways, but one of the more common styles is when a CTF team defend their own systems, while another CTF team attacks those systems. This style is usually played in timed rounds, in which teams switch roles at the end of a given round.


The "flags" in these competitions is usually a specific text file that proves that a team has overcome some type of defensive barrier. Each individual flag is worth predetermined number of points in the game. Most games require CTF teams to crack passwords linked to accounts, which can be used to gain greater access to individual system or leapfrog to another system

CTF competitions do have rules. In most competitions the attacking team is allowed to utilize lots of hacking tools and techniques to compromise the defending team's systems, but the attacking team might be banned from using commercial security tools that the defending team might not have access to. Rules for the defending team usually include items, such as not disabling network connections or powering-off a system to protect it from attack. Certain rule violations often lead to points being taken from the team, but more severe violations can be grounds for disqualification and ejection from the competition.

A CTF competition is a game that facilitates teamwork, collaboration on offensive and defensive strategies, technical and communication skills, and, above all, persistence. Do you have what it takes to play Capture the Flag at BSides Asheville?