Carnegie Mellon showed off its computer security talent by winning DEF CON’s Capture the Flag competition, the “Superbowl of hacking,” for the sixth time. The team was composed of CMU students in the Plaid Parliament of Pwning, who joined forces with CMU Alum Professor Robert Xiao’s Maple Bacon (at the University of British Columbia) and CMU Alum startup Theori.io.
Together the teams formed a new squad under the name Maple Mallard Magistrates (MMM), finishing in the top spot on the leaderboard at the end of days one and two, and holding on during the competition’s final day to take this year’s crown.
Carnegie Mellon’s (CMU) Plaid Parliament of Pwning (PPP) won five hacking world championships between 2013 and 2019, the most victories by any team in the competition’s history. Although playing as an expanded team this time around, PPP has now earned its sixth title in the past ten years. Winners each year get 8 “black badges” – the most elite recognition in hacking. PPP now has 48 total “black badges”.
“If you’re wondering who the best and brightest security experts in the world are, look no further than the Capture the Flag room at DEF CON,” says David Brumley, an Electrical and Computer Engineering professor at CMU and the faculty advisor to the team.
Over the course of the 72-hour hacking spree, sixteen qualifying teams made up of students, industry workers, and government contractors from around the world attempted to break into each other’s systems, stealing virtual “flags” and accumulating points while simultaneously trying to protect their own.
“The hacking challenges this year spanned many different formats, exploring different skills and giving us all the chance to both showcase and stretch our abilities,” said Jay Bosamiya, PPP’s team captain, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon’s Computer Science Department, and member of CMU’s CyLab Security and Privacy Institute.
Carnegie Mellon’s hacking team first formed in 2009 and began competing at DEF CON in 2010. The team previously won the contest in 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, and 2019.
The victory builds on CMU’s prowess in cybersecurity, a strength shared with the rising generation through picoCTF, a free and robust computer security education program that hosts the world’s largest high school hacking competition.