UQ Cyber Squad leaps towards global top 10 position

20 May 2020

It’s a huge ambition, but they’re not afraid, because being known as the best cyber security competition squad in the world isn’t far out of reach for The University of Queensland’s elite band of student white-hat hackers, the UQ Cyber Squad.

Competing with two crack teams, UQ Cyber Squad took out 11th position from 800 teams in an international, 48-hour capture the flag (CTF) competition, Sharky CTF.

The team was undeterred by COVID-19 restrictions that forced all 10 students to their most comfortable place – online.

Team Captain, Haoxi Tan said the group put in a tremendous effort, working long hours and stretching their skills to the max, in order to come up with such a fantastic result.

“There were 9 categories of challenges, and we did particularly well in the web hacking, reverse engineering, forensics, penetration testing and even the blockchain challenges,” said Haoxi.

“Allocating team members to challenges in order to utilise their strengths in different areas, as well as persistence were the keys to our success.

“A really good CTF involves challenges that have never been seen before, and Sharky had plenty of that.

“We had to think on our feet, bounce ideas off each other and work well as a team, which wasn’t easy at 3AM when we were not really firing on all cylinders – but it paid off.”

UQ Chair and Director of Cyber Security, Professor Ryan Ko said the UQ Cyber Squad was improving every day.

“The team did really well to get 11th place out of such a long line-up of teams from around the world, so I look forward to seeing them excel and do even better into the future,” Professor Ko said.

“This is especially exciting as we welcome the new cohort of Master of Cyber Security students to the teams, later in the year.”

UQ will introduce the new Master of Cyber Security in Semester 2 of 2020, where students from technology, business, mathematics, social science and law will come together to learn about the global cyber security landscape.

It’s estimated that Australia will need an additional 18,000 cyber security professionals by 2026, so in partnership with industry experts, UQ has developed the first program of its kind.

The postgraduate degree will address not only the interdisciplinary nature of this field and the deep technical specialisations that professionals will need in the future, but also provide a rich student experience with groups like the UQ Cyber Squad.

Congratulations to the UQ Cyber Squad members who competed: Haoxi Tan,  Aidan Stanfield, Thomas Malcolm, Tim Kallioinen, Henry Lim, Joshua Scarsbrook, Ruiqing Li, Nicole Harding, Patrick McCahill, and Calum Henman.