Qualcomm Capture the Flag Event 2016
Capture the Flag” or CTF, is a term used to describe a set of challenges that cyber security professionals engage in to test their skills in real world environments. With the rise in social engineering hackers (IRS scams and other phone-based extortion techniques), the event organizers wanted to deviate from typical CTF challenges and force the participants to think outside the box. The goal of the five week project was to present weekly technology challenges to four teams of five individuals. Each week had a different technical challenge and a correspondingly different design challenge.
I modified the typeface HOUSE3009-Outerspace Alpha to create a logo that was both digital and edgy. This logo was used throughout the five weeks and was, as requested, the only element of design that was consistent throughout the project.
The theme I was given to kickoff the contest was “My Little Pony”. To raise interest in the event, I created six posters that utilized the colors from each of the six main ponies. The design on each poster is a large barcode that, when scanned by a cell phone, provided their first clue. Posters were hung throughout main areas of the office building.
Branding USB fobs with cut vinyl was a cost effective way to add a personalized touch to the event. The fobs contained the puzzle of the week, designed by the programmers hosting the event.
For the third week of the challenge, the organizers of the event expressed interest in creating a set of clues that would bring teams together in order to solve the puzzle. To ensure collaboration I created two sets of cards to be handed out. The first set of cards included images of famous castles and a message written in an incomplete code that was set in a “Stargate” pattern around the image of the castle. The second set of cards, provided to opposing teams, was printed on velum and contained the rest of the code necessary to complete the clue. Only by placing the correct velum card over it’s matching castle card could the teams reveal the entire code and work to complete the assigned challenge.
The challenge for week four involved a set of classic, text-based video games. To highlight the theme I created a set of 20-sided dice, each face displaying a necessary clue to solve the puzzle.
During the last week I was asked to design a very challenging visual clue that, when deciphered, would guide a user to a website. Networked computers can be accessed by a set of four numbers known as an Internet Protocol (IP) address. I used the numbers from a target IP address to assign Red, Green, and Blue values for each of four squares. While the squares all appear black, each is slightly different. Only by carefully examining each square using a visual color picker can an individual detect differences in the color values and determine the target IP address. This time I was sure that I had finally stumped the techies. They loved the challenge but figured it out by the week’s end!
For the debriefing, I created “Borg” cube-shaped awards covered with manipulated typography to reflect the digital nature of the event.