Cyber attacks are common in today’s world, and therefore cybersecurity is becoming a bigger and bigger priority for businesses.  In response, students and professionals in the information security industry have been working hard to discover the ways these attackers can hack into companies’ computer networks and acquire sensitive and private data.

Cybersecurity training allows those interested in, studying, or working in information security to get hands-on experience using the tools they have already acquired, as well as learn new techniques and strategies for defending against cyberattacks.

Capture The Flag (CTF) originated as a form of cybersecurity training in 1993 at DEFCON, the largest cybersecurity conference in the U.S. It began as, and continues to be today, a competition where cybersecurity students and professionals can further their knowledge and put their skills to the test with hands-on cybersecurity challenges.

As Capture the Flag continues to grow as a worldwide cybersecurity training event and competition, so do the variations in the specific challenges that students and professionals must face. The most popular CTF formats include:

Jeopardy: Teams must complete as many challenges as possible from a given section. Categories include programming, applications, networking, forensics, mobile, cryptography, reverse engineering, and more.

Attack-Defense: Teams must defend and capture vulnerable computer systems. To gain points, teams maintain possession of as many systems as possible while denying their competitors access.

Mixed: A combination of Jeopardy and Attack-Defense competitions, teams are required to play to each member’s strengths and divide efforts between completing security challenges, attacking vulnerable systems, and defending their machines against other competitors.


Four years ago, MAGIC’s founding Executive Director, Jason Stambaugh, partnered with cybersecurity volunteers to launch an early entry Capture the Flag competition for high school and college students in Westminster, Maryland. MAGIC’s CTF001 was held in a single location with only 6 participating students.  Today, MAGIC’s early entry CTF continues developing new puzzles with the help of volunteers and has grown to include over 300 participants from all over the United States and the world, including Idaho, Tennessee, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Maryland, Estonia, Northern Ireland and Ecuador! 

MAGIC hosted its 8th Capture the Flag event earlier this month on November 11th. With 308 registered participants (88 teams) competing from 20 different locations – it was MAGIC’s largest CTF competition to date.

Interested in cybersecurity? If you want to be a part of MAGIC’s next Capture The Flag competition, keep an eye out for an announcement of CTF 009.

In the meantime, you can check out clips from CTF 008 and take a look at the Top 3 Winning Teams. We love hosting this event and hope to see you at our next competition!