The Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC) sponsors student programming to enhance workforce development for technology companies, particularly in the cybersecurity industry. Unlike many competitions out there, MAGIC events are positioned as entry-level beginner competitions to appeal to the widest possible population of students. High school, college, and nontraditional college students interested in pursuing a career in cybersecurity are invited to participate.
This introductory Capture the Flag competition allows participants to get a feel for the cyber process in an environment designed to help competitors “learn” logical thinking skills and teamwork.
MAGIC’s Capture the Flag competitions are a reliable source of information and support for learning the basic building blocks used in cybersecurity. We provide the “white” hat approach and apply the principles of ethical hacking during our competitions. Our staff of volunteer industry professionals help coach and support the process.
Do you like puzzles? Are you passionate about solving a mystery? Are you interested in pursuing a career in Cybersecurity? Want to be a super hero in the hacking world? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then a Capture the Flag Ethical Hacking Cybersecurity competition may be the answer.
The Capture the Flag (CTF) hosted events are based on content originally developed by the cybersecurity professionals at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and further extended and modified by MAGIC volunteers. The content consists of sets of puzzles that require using various hacking tools, coding skills, and just plain puzzle solving to find the answers, which are short strings of code called “flags”. Once located, the flags are entered into a scoreboard, which keeps a tally for all teams. The team with the most points at the end of the timed competition wins.
MAGIC simultaneously holds events in multiple host locations using a cloud-based software platform. Recent events featured participants in host locations around the world~ in Maryland, North Carolina, Idaho, Ecuador, and Estonia, with live streaming on YouTube, Facebook updates, Instagram stories, and live Tweets during the competition. This is a free event for participants. Hosting locations pay a one-time licensing fee per event and location, depending on the number of teams.
The multi-location hosted event is offered in November.
Check out the Events calendar for scheduled dates and registration information.
MAGIC’s Online Capture the Flag competition is an online version of our popular hosted event. While the look and feel are different, we have continued to provide a beginning level of competition for novices.
Instead of a local VM (virtual machine) instance used in our hosted event, the online CTF utilizes a web browser that is accessible from any computer with a browser. This allows the competitor to participate in the online version from anywhere they have internet access.
This version is also slightly more difficult as the individual is responsible for managing their own tools and environmental resources to compete. And because this is totally virtual, no industry professionals are available to coach or give hints on the challenges.
Our challenges are broken down into difficulty levels. Level 0 challenges are basic introduction puzzles that allow the participant to “get into” the competition. Level 1,2, and 3 puzzles become progressively more difficult and will require additional time. We also have two challenge levels specific to an operating system.
A Linux level with challenges specific to the Linux operating system. You will need an installation of Kali Linux to solve these puzzles.
The second is a Windows level. These puzzles are specific to a windows operating system and you will need an installation of Windows to solve this level. These 2 levels are more complex, but will gain you more points when solved.
The online competition allows MAGIC to expand our cybersecurity learning opportunities to interested people that would not ordinarily attend a live event. Each has its positives and negatives. You choose which is right for you!
Check out our event calendar for scheduled dates and times.
This event is offered several times a year.
Registering for Capture the Flag
Both our hosted and online competitions are team-based challenges. Up to 4 people can be registered to a team. When registering, please follow the directions as the registration process is slightly different for each event. As all prizes are sent via email, make sure you enter a valid email address when registering. Failure to provide a valid email will cause a forfeit of any prize offered to winning teams.
NOTE: No inappropriate user names or team names will be permitted! MAGIC reserves the right to disqualify you AND your team if it is determined that you and/or your team registered with any keyword, terms, or words with a negative connotation. This includes icons or emojis.
Teams (up to 4 individuals per team)
Assign a team captain from your group. The captain will be responsible for registering the team name on the competition scoreboard, so should be the first team member to register.
For the online CTF, an individual can register to participate as a team of one and compete individually.
For the hosted CTF an individual can register to participate, but depending on the location you will be competing at, you will be placed on a team or a team will be created by combining individual registrations. We do not allow single team competition at the live, hosted event.
Team Captain: Once you have your team defined and have registered a team name, you will need to forward the team name and team password to your team members so they can register and assign themselves to the correct team.
Once you and your team members are registered, that’s it. You are ready to go!
- Each individual who participates in the Competition (“Participant”) must be at least 13 years of age.
- Participants Must be a current student in an accredited middle school, high school, or home schooled program. College level students must be currently enrolled in an accredited undergraduate program.
- Post graduate or certified professionals in the field of Cybersecurity are prohibited from competition.
- Previous MAGIC CTF winners are excluded from participation.
By creating an account and participating in the competition challenges, you are agreeing to these competition rules with respect to the current competition.
- Individuals and/or Teams may not interfere with the progress of other individuals/Teams, nor with the operation of the Competition’s infrastructure. More specifically, attacking the scoring server, other Teams, or machines not explicitly designated as targets is cheating. This includes both breaking into such machines, and denying others access to them or the ability to solve problems. Sharing keys or providing overly-revealing hints with other teams is cheating, as is being directly assisted by personnel outside the Team (using tools from the internet is OK; asking people on the internet to help solve the problem is not). We encourage Participants to solve problems in novel and creative ways using all available resources, but we do require that Participants solve the problems themselves.
- All information provided to establish an account must be true and correct. You are responsible for keeping such information up-to-date. Failure to keep your account up-to-date may, among other things, jeopardize your eligibility to compete.
- You must utilize appropriate username and team id’s. No usernames and IDs will be allowed that promotes a negative connotation or meaning. MAGIC will disqualify a participant if we deem inappropriate ID’s are being used. This includes icons and emojis.
- MAGIC runs an honest, ethically responsible competition. At any time, in the sole and absolute discretion of MAGIC, we shall be entitled to disqualify a Participant and/or Team in the event of a failure to meet relevant eligibility criteria or any other violation or suspected violation of these Competition Rules.
- Professional teams and teams that have professional skill levels should not participate in this beginner level educational competition. Professional or ranked teams will automatically be disqualified at the end of the event.
- Competition problems(challenges) or other content on the MAGIC site remains the property of MAGIC. MAGIC reserve any rights in such materials. You are authorized to access and use such materials solely with respect to registration for and/or participation in virtual CTF by you. You may not use the MAGIC site or any materials on it (including but not limited to the Competition problems) for any unauthorized purpose.
- In this competition, tie breaks are essentially resolved by time. If two teams have the same score at the conclusion of the competition, the team with the oldest score time stamp will be declared the winner.
Prize are determined for the top 3 teams after the completion of the competition. The prizes are:
- $100 electronic gift card from Amazon for each member of the 1st place team
- $50 electronic gift card from Amazon for each member of the 2nd place team
- $25 electronic gift card from Amazon for each member of the 3rd place team.
A $25 electronic gift card from Amazon will be awarded to teams that locate and document any Easter Eggs that may be present during the competition. I.E. a missing line of code, a wrongly formatted flag, etc. Be the first team to find it and you and your team member will get the reward!
All Electronic gift cards are purchased in US funds from the .com site. The gift card is the final prize and cannot be cashed in or converted to another method of payment.
MAGIC will determine and announce the top 3 teams after the competition ends. MAGIC reserves the right to disqualify any team that is found not conforming with the Rules of the competition. Any ties for the top 3 slots will be determined by time stamps on the teams in question. Oldest time stamp(who scored the points first) will win.
We have compiled some Frequently asked questions that we hope will answer any questions you may have.
What is the age limit to compete in the CTF?
Participants must be at least 13 years of age to compete. Students ages 13-20 are encouraged to participate in this beginner level competition. Continuing education adults with no prior cybersecurity experience is also welcome.
How can I register for the online CTF?
The registration link for the online ctf will be posted on this page and in our Event listing on the Wednesday before the event. We reset our system before each competition, so if you register before that date, your registration will be deleted. You must re-register for each event.
I want to compete, but I don’t know if I have enough experience.
The great thing about MAGIC’s CTF is that you need NO prior experience. This competition is a truly entry level competition that includes basic knowledge puzzles as well as more in depth challenges. Learn at your own pace.
What do I need to know to compete?
Basic understanding of computers and how to use Google are about the only things you need to know to start out. Most of our basic Level 0 challenges only require being able to use your internet browser to search for specific information. The higher level challenges do required several different tools to help solve puzzles, but we have included a helpful tool within the competition to get you started. Also, check out our Tools & Tips tab to get a great list of resources to help you out.
Will I have help during the competition?
Simple answer is no. This competition is a work at you own pace event. It is designed as a self motivated competition and you must rely on your knowledge and sleuthing skills to solve the puzzles. However general questions or technical issues or errors can be directed to us at using the chat feature located in the bottom right of the competition screen.
I don’t have a team, can I still participate by myself?
YES! Although our online competition is team based, individuals can participate by creating a team of one. Check out the How to register tab for detailed information on registering.
What prizes are given, if any, for this competition?
MAGIC’s main goal is to promote an unstructured experience to learn and grow. We do however, offer a small prize for the top 3 placing teams. Each member of the 1st place teams will receive a $100 Amazon gift card. Each member of the 2nd place team will receive a $50 Amazon gift card, and members of the 3rd place team will each receive a $25 Amazon gift card. The gift cards are sent electronically, so please make sure you register with a valid email address as any prizes won will be sent to that email. Electronic gift cards will be sent out within 24 hours of the end of the competition.
Kali Linux Resources
Kali Linux is a forensic and security-focused distribution based on Debian’s Testing branch. Kali Linux is designed with penetration testing, data recovery and threat detection in mind. This is the environment of choice for cybersecurity.
Python is an easy to learn programming language that is perfect for a beginner to any language. It’s ease of use makes it perfect for creating simple scripts and working your way up to full programs.
Building tech communities through cutting edge innovation, entrepreneurial incubation and public education.
Building tech communities through cutting edge innovation, entrepreneurial incubation and public education.