2014 Strategies & Tactics

What strategies did competitors use to approach the complexities of the scenario they are presented with?

If you’ve watched our 2014 HackFu video, you’ll know their overall mission was to find out what had been going down in Hacksville. But what techniques did we observe the teams using to solve the mystery? At the same time how did they approach the task of giving themselves an advantage over the other competitors? There were certainly a few interesting approaches employed in order to do this and these broadly fitted into the following categories:

  • Deploying human intelligence assets to gather information from the key stakeholders in the construct (ie the characters in the main plotline) as well as individuals in the teams they were competing against. This intelligence led approach had the advantage of allowing the teams using it to deploy their resources more selectively and to understand which challenges were strategically more important to solve than others. This is something that you don’t get to do in the real world as there are numerous legal and ethical issues associated with its use by an individual or company. However, at our event these issues can be explored and investigated in a safe environment, allowing all involved to learn from their experiences.
  • Taking control of the money markets by using an electronic bank robbery thereby increasing the amount of money in active circulation and holding the majority of it themselves. This had the effect of devaluing the currency and removing any power associated with the money held by the other teams (as well as winning in-game points for the percentage of money they then held). Teams who had employed the strategy of trading information and resources for currency before the devaluation were scuppered by the attack and ended up not claiming the amount of points from it that they had been hoping for.
  • Forming allegiances with teams who had lower or equivalent scores towards the end of the competition so that intelligence and in-game information could be shared. This had the effect of giving teams not in the lead the opportunity to grab a greater share of the additional points that could be won by submitting more accurate and complete intelligence reports. The result was that the other teams could close the gap on the team in the lead as their intelligence gathering had not been significantly better than the other teams nor were they able to form allegiances themselves simply because they were in the lead.

Now these may not all be strategies that we can employ ourselves in addressing the cyber-security challenges we face in our day-to-day lives. However, would we even have considered them as potential solutions unless we had the freedom to be this creative, the scope to explore how they work in practice and therefore understand their constraints? So based on this type of evidence we can confidently say that HackFu is certainly able to drive the behaviours that can result in creative solutions being identified, which is something we flagged as being important to us. But that’s not all we need to achieve through the event.

The next piece of this puzzle is to give people some insight into what they did well and what they could do better next time. The reason for doing that is to ensure that they were able to derive maximum learning from the scenario in which they were placed. That can be achieved in several ways, firstly by walking through the solutions to the individual challenges (or allowing contestants to complete them in their own time after the event) as well as by revealing the details of the bigger picture, mapping it back to some of the strategies the teams employed.

So by drawing parallels between our construct and the real-world enables the attendees to reflect on how their actions would have worked had they used them for real, allowing the subtleties of the challenges our industry is facing to be analysed further and more importantly the lessons learned to be communicated to others. We don’t think that’s too shabby an achievement as a result of getting a group of clever people together and letting them solve some challenges.

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