Year 10 student Jefferson Ding leads team to fifth in Canada ranking in cybersecurity competition
Created by security experts at Carnegie Mellon University, picoCTF (digital Capture the Flag) is a challenge for students featuring reverse engineering, steganography and cryptography – the last being Ding’s strongest field.
"I find it exciting to solve the questions because they’re very broad. You can learn a lot and also practice what you know," says Ding, who was introduced to hackathons in 2018 and enters four to five CTF competitions each year.
The picoCTF CanHack 2021 was the first time Ding led a team in a challenge, which meant he had to come up with a way to stay organized, both before and during the tense competition. In order to achieve this, he set up a team server for his fellow members, Year 11s Brian Chan, Ethan Li, Justin Lo and Leo Zhang, which allowed for insight sharing, background research, and housing challenges that were completed prior to the competition.
"CTF competitions are based on two aspects: experience and research," explains Ding. "The more practice you have, the easier it will be." He stays on top of research papers that are released by professionals to aid in solving the tougher questions.
Outside of competitions, Ding likes to share his insights and new findings with anyone who's interested. He's co-head of the VEX Robotics club, and a member of the STEM club (which is dedicated to bringing together different clubs within the design realm). Ding is also working on launching a UCC hackathon where students will have the opportunity to cross pollinate ideas.
Says Paul Miskew, UCC’s design chair and mentor to Ding, "Jefferson is a student who shows a true passion not simply for problem-solving and designing, but for the opportunity to share his dedication and bring others along in a collective journey."