No flag too elusive for cyber sleuths

Published on SGT Mark Doran (author), ABIS Kieran Dempsey (photographer)

Location(s): Toowoomba, Qld

Topic(s): Fleet Cyber Unit (FCU)

Members of the Fleet Cyber Group, from left, ABCIS Jarryd Dart, LSCIS Dharugeyan Murugavel, LEUT David Brook, LSCIS Morgan Fitzpatrick and ABCTS Nicholas Tangey. (photo: ABIS Kieran Dempsey)
Members of the Fleet Cyber Group, from left, ABCIS Jarryd Dart, LSCIS Dharugeyan Murugavel, LEUT David Brook, LSCIS Morgan Fitzpatrick and ABCTS Nicholas Tangey.

A far cry from the dark dungeons where hackers usually gather on TV and in movies, Toowoomba’s Highfields Cultural Centre was transformed into a base-of-operations for the Cyber Skills Challenge - Joint (CSC-J).

The challenge gathered 17 teams from Defence, government, industry and the British Army to test their technical skills over three days in early November.

The Navy teams from the newly formed Fleet Cyber Unit (FCU), Navy Information Warfare Branch and Navy Technical Bureau battled against more experienced peers in capture-the-flag and incident response challenges.

They also had the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business, including military personnel, academics and private industry experts, during a day of presentations about the future of their craft.

ABCTS Nicholas Tangey said the CSC-J was a chance to develop his skills as an incident responder and to learn from his peers in Defence and industry.

“The opportunity to learn from some of the best experts in the industry was the real highlight of the three-day exercise,” AB Tangey said.

The capture-the-flag activity involved solving a diverse range of puzzles and activities, including encoding and decoding, encryption and decryption, scripting, forensics and file analysis.

“It was pretty challenging, especially coming up against some pretty experienced teams,” he said.

In the incident-response activity, the teams analysed captured data to conduct forensic analysis and discover hidden flags within a compromised system. The Navy team flexed its skill in this section, finishing third.

ABCIS Jarryd Dart said he enjoyed hearing the ways in which people tackled issues they encountered during the challenge.

“Learning how to apply skills in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise expected was the highlight of the competition for me,” AB Dart said.

“It was definitely a challenging few days. The mantras ‘try harder’ and ‘don’t forget to eat’ were thrown around a lot.”

The Fleet Cyber Unit was formed as an element of IWFOR this year to meet Government’s Cyber Security Strategy and Defence White Paper 2016.