The National Integrated Cyber Infrastructure System (NICIS), which comprises of the Centre for High Performance Computing (CHCP), the South African National Research Network (SANReN) and the Data Intensive Research Initiative of South Africa (DIRISA) will be hosting the CHPC Annual National Meeting in December 2020.
At this conference, SANReN will host the second annual information security competition with an emphasis on networks. This will be called the Cyber Security Challenge.
The purpose of this competition is to stimulate interest in Cyber Security in general and specifically in the field of Network Security within South African Tertiary institutions.
This competition is aimed at university students who are interested in information security fields such as penetration testing, incident response, digital forensics, and security training.
This competition will consist of:

  • The challenge will test the problem-solving skills of participating teams by requiring them to complete tasks in penetration testing, incident response, digital forensics and cryptography.
  • An attack/defence system for team vs. team battles. System used consists of dedicated preconfigures hardware and software. In the attack/defence competition, the teams have to hack each other, but also fix vulnerabilities in their own applications (by means of source code changes).
  • Independently manned scoring system.
  • Internationally supported Cyber challenge competition (by Swiss Compass Security).

A benefit from this competition will be to expose university students to real cyber related threats and build a pipeline of students into the information security field.
Additionally, during the competition, the students may discover new 0-day vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities can then be safely negated before they can be used by malicious hackers.
Another benefit of this type of competition is the ability to see how hackers’ responses differ from IT professionals and other representatives of the companies cyber criminals seek to attack. Some insights came in direct contrary to certain beliefs that had been fundamental to cybersecurity strategies in the past.
Due to the high interest among students, the completion had to be split into two rounds. In the first round, students will compete for positions in the final round. Over 200 students from over ten universities will compete in the first round (including from Botswana and Nambia), of which 40 will be placed to compete at in the second round during the CHPC conference.
Overall the Cybersecurity Challenge aims to stimulate interest in information and cyber security with computer networks by presenting students with challenges that replicate real-world scenarios. The eventual aim is for SANReN to sponsor the winning student team to compete at an appropriate international competition, such as the European Cyber Security Challenge or the BRICS skills challenge, similar to the CHPC’s sponsorship of the CHPC Student Cluster Competition winners to participate in the ISC Student Cluster Competition. There is also an opportunity to initiate and grow the Cyber Security Challenge into an African Cyber Games event to potentially be hosted in collaboration with the three Regional Research and Education Networks (RRENs) spanning Africa, i.e. Ubuntunet Alliance, WACREN and ASREN.