By Christiaan Botha & Martyn Ruks
Standing in the warm winter sunshine of a Friday morning in Johannesburg it was hard for the participants to imagine what lay in store for them at the inaugural HackFu ZA event. However, those responsible for organising the event, veterans of a teaching and skills development concept that began 10 years ago, knew exactly what was coming.
From the beginnings of a zombie uprising used to create a storyline and "HackFu Construct", to fiendish challenges and puzzles the attendees would attempt, everything in the event was to have a purpose and an authenticity brought by months of diligent preparation.
The primarily South African contestants were drawn from a wide range of roles and backgrounds both inside and out of the cyber security industry. These included MWR consultants, students as well as those filling roles as diverse as accountants and project managers. The commonality between everyone was a desire to learn, teach, investigate and push themselves to solve problems. On the 8th of July 2016 they came together at HackFu to put all of that into practice.
As they were led into a disused warehouse, acting as a safe-house from the zombie inducing infection. Unbeknownst to them at the time this was also the former laboratory for RWM, the company who had produced the virus now running rampant.
After being informed that they had in fact contracted one of two strains of this virus the participants were divided into two teams, tasked with saving both themselves and the entire human race. The story behind the creation, release and propagation of the virus is a fascinating tale of intrigue that the participants uncovered throughout the event and you can also read all its twists and turns.
As with previous HackFu events run in other locations round the World the primary purpose of all of this was to bring people together to share skills and experiences, collaborate to solve difficult challenges and as a result learn key skills needed to solve the cyber security problems faced in the real world on a daily basis. The event is also about sharing these experiences and spreading lessons learned as widely as possible. By doing so it enables others to benefit from them and draw on them when advertising what roles in our industry really involve. More importantly, by living the HackFu experience it allows those attending to educate people about the approach and thinking needed to succeed in these roles. However, this is no different to the aims and objectives of any HackFu event and the primary purpose of this site is to share our thoughts and ideas on this subject.
One thing we’ve learned from running these events for many years is that it’s easier to explain the concept and teaching approach employed at HackFu by looking at examples of the individual challenges that are run. One challenge at HackFu ZA that exemplifies the skills and attributes needed of those working within the cyber security industry, and how these are exercised during the event, is “The Mad Scientist’s Office”. As with any HackFu challenge there are many layers of complexity that lie behind a seemingly simple concept for the challenge. How these relate to the purpose of HackFu in its wider role in helping to close the skills gap within the cyber security industry, are what we’ll explore in the article about the challenge.
As for the inaugural HackFu ZA, well you can read for yourself how the in-event storyline played out. The competitors had a great time solving the wide variety of different technical and non-technical challenges presented to them. They demonstrated all the attributes of people who will be successful in this industry and we hope that the event inspired some of those still in academia that there is a role for them.
All that remains to be done is the planning for HackFu ZA 2017!
In our opening article we discuss how we see the problem space and what some of the challenges are so given all of that, what are we looking to achieve with this website.
As we said previously we don’t claim to know all the solutions but we are certainly trying things that will enable us to find them. Along the way we’ll learn lots of lessons, we’ll no doubt have a few false starts but we’ll also get some stuff right. It’s that journey that we’re going to share on this site, including all the initiatives and events that we’re planning to run to support it all.
We don’t know yet exactly what will be on this site but the one thing we’re certain of is that it will be thought provoking, philosophical, challenging and most importantly it will be fun and engaging. We’ll get techie at times, something we make no apology for, as well as extracting the concepts and key points that we encounter along the way.
We also want your help on our journey. We want you to tell us your thoughts and experiences of what we’re doing and hopefully some stories about how you’ve taken our ideas and turned them into your own projects, events and general awesomeness. We want to know the good, the bad and the ugly and to get involved please get in contact via Twitter and then keep coming back to this hub for more insight and information.
So hold on tight, this will be a wild ride for all of us.