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Capture the flag has been played for millennia. From outdoor games to video games, and even in the cyber security world. It’s used as a training tool to increase the competing hackers’ skills. The objective is to reverse engineer, break, hack, decrypt, and otherwise think creatively and critically to solve the challenges and capture the flags. Flags are secrets hidden in purposefully-vulnerable programs or websites. In these competitions, competitors steal flags either from each other or from the event organizers.

Some of the largest CTF competitions are DEF CON, FAUST CTF, and Pwn2Win RCTF. These competitions offer cash prizes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. To be able to compete in these events and battle with these elites, though, you will have to qualify in smaller competitions, first. Google even hosts their own CTF competitions with prize money in the thousands of dollars.

Now, Carnegie Mellon University is going to start its 7th picoCTF. PicoCTF is an online cybersecurity competition that’s run by security and privacy experts from across the industry. If you visit, you’ll see that they offer learning and training as well as the ability to enter their competitions. picoCTF 2021 starts on March 16th at 12 PM EST and ends March 30th at 3 PM EST. Participation is free, so, all you need to participate is a computer and an internet connection. If you are starting to see dollar signs, keep this in mind: Only middle and high school students from the US are eligible for cash prizes, which total almost $12,000.

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