Hands-on Systems Security

The classroom is an excellent forum for learning the foundations of security. But, practical experience in attacking and defending systems is invaluable for internalizing lessons learned in the classroom and translating theory into practice. Capture-the-Flag (CTF) competitions serve as an organized, controlled environment for just this purpose.

At Northeastern, CTF-style competitions are integrated directly into the curriculum, and students are encouraged to participate in both regional events such as the MITLL CTF as well as distributed competitions.


My students and I participate in numerous CTF events held throughout the year as part of Shellphish, a team that originally formed at UCSB's Security Lab. CTF Time maintains an updated list of these events, along with rankings of participating teams.

Shellphish won the DEFCON CTF, widely recognized as the "world championships" of CTF competitions, in 2005.