River Valley High School team beat 117 other teams to win cyber security competition

The team from River Valley High School - Team RVCTF (River Valley Capture the Flag) - clinched a $5,000 prize for winning the annual Cyberthon cyber security competition. PHOTO: CENTRE FOR STRATEGIC INFOCOMM TECHNOLOGIES

SINGAPORE - A team from River Valley High School  fended off stiff competition to win a cyber security competition on Saturday (May 7).

The competition tested the teams' abilities in various skills including cryptography and machine learning.

Team RVCTF (River Valley Capture the Flag) out-duelled 117 other teams, comprising over 470 students, in the fourth edition of the annual Cyberthon.

The gruelling full-day competition involved solving 30 challenges that drew from a swathe of cyber security skills.

The race to the top spot went down to the wire, with the results up in the air till the final hour, but a team from NUS High School of Mathematics and Science and another from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) had to settle for second and third respectively.

Liu Jiaye, 19; Guan Chen Di, Lucas Lau and Zhou Zehao, all aged 18, make up Team RVCTF.

Jiaye credited the team's success to the complementary strengths of each member.

"Zehao is good at data science and programming challenges, Lucas is good at (digital) forensics, while me and Chen Di are good at reverse engineering.

"During the competition, we could spread out the challenges without overlap... (and this was) a key factor in helping us to win since the competition is relatively short."

"We can all focus on own strengths," he added.

Such was the overall strength of their performance, that they pipped the NUS High School team, which won two other prizes involving data science and solving complex challenges.

To score points for each challenge, participants have to find a correct answer and submit it.

The number of points each challenge is worth, which is the same at the start of the competition, changes with the number of teams that end up solving each challenge.

The competition, which saw 19 schools compete, is open to pre-university students from junior colleges, centralised institutes and schools offering the International Baccalaureate.

The top three teams won cash prizes of $5,000, $3,500 and $1,500 respectively.

In a keynote address during the virtual closing ceremony, Minister of State for Education Gan Siow Huang said that Singapore is very vulnerable to cyber threats like scams, hacks, and disinformation, as it is a small node in the international network for trade and businesses.

Ms Gan, who is also Minister of State for Manpower, added: "Ultimately, we know that no single layer of defence will be sufficient against increasingly clever and sophisticated cyber attacks.

"But we need to collectively build multiple layers of defence ranging from public education to training, from strengthening our industries to modernising our armed forces, so that we can continue to keep Singapore safe and secure."

The Cyberthon is part of ongoing efforts by its organisers - HCI, the Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies (CSIT) and the Defence Cyber Organisation - to nurture young talents in cyber security.

Participants were trained by CSIT engineers in online sessions in April and provided exercises over the two weeks after, to ensure even those with little prior exposure could participate and gain a taste of working as a cyber security professional.

Six of the 30 challenges posed to participants were created by a group of nine cyber specialists from the Singapore Armed Forces, said CSIT chief executive Goh Wei Boon.

They are part of a select group of top cyber security talent who serve their national service by defending the Republic in cyberspace, through a work-learn programme to gain real-world operational experience in areas like threat monitoring, cyber forensics, and malware analysis.

One of them, Second Sergeant Alloysius Goh, 21, said one of the challenges his team is particularly proud of involved the participants devising rules to help sieve out a specific file that fits a given description, from more than 100,000 files - a technique often used to detect malicious files.

Added 2SG Goh: "The students have showcased remarkable problem-solving skills through the event, and I think that we have achieved the goal of the event, which is to strengthen the national cyber defence ecosystem by nurturing the next generation of cyber security talents."

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