Hacking and competing for fun!

Aapo Oksman Senior Specialist

Aapo Oksman

Senior Specialist

September 22, 2022 at 10:00

What could be more fun than joining a team of young talents and competing in cybersecurity? Perhaps coaching a team of young talents to unleash their full potential and building a team based on each individual's personal strengths.

My name is Aapo Oksman and I work as a Senior Security Specialist at Nixu. I was the coach for the Finnish national team in the European Cyber Security Challenge, which was held on September 13th­–16th in Vienna, Austria.

The annual, European event is organized for young cyber talents (age under 25) to compete in cybersecurity. The competition includes solving security-related tasks from domains such as web security, mobile security, crypto puzzles, reverse engineering, and forensics. Each participating country is competing as a team of ten and collecting points for solving the tasks.

In Vienna, there were in total 28 teams from different countries across Europe and five guest countries from outside Europe. Each participating country had its own national preliminary competitions to qualify the participants for their national teams. In Finland, The Generation Z Hack Challenge acted as a qualifier competition for the European Cyber Security Challenge. The Gen Z Hack was an individual competition, but it aimed at putting together a team of diverse skills and talents to compete in the European event.

ECSC 2022 Competition Finnish National Team
The Finnish national team in Vienna

Our Finnish team consisted of five participants aged between 15–20 and five between 21–25 of age. In addition to myself, there were three other Nixuans: Santtu Sievänen, Mika Luhta, and Veeti Ojanperä, on our team. Nixu also sponsored the Swedish national team, and we also had a Nixuan, Aidan Stephenson, representing the Dutch national team.

ECSC 2022 Competition Nixuans

Nixuans from left to right: Mika Luhta, Aidan Stephenson, Aapo Oksman, Santtu Sievänen, and Veeti Ojanperä

The actual competition in Vienna was two full days. On the first day, the tasks were organized in the style of the game show “Jeopardy”, so the goal was to solve as many tasks from different topics as possible. The second day was an “Attack & Defense” type of competition, where we competed against other teams and tried to attack their servers while protecting our own. My job as a coach was mainly preparing the team before the competition, so I had time to network and meet other coaches and organizers and gain new ideas on how to develop our training and prepare for next year’s competition.

ECSC 2022 Competition Finnish National Team in action
The Finnish national team in action (in the right corner)

After two days of competition, our Finnish team placed 12th out of 33 participants. Before the competition, we had set our objective to achieve as high points as possible. We had very good players in our team, but we were participating for the first time, so all in all, we gained good experience in solving the hacking challenges as a team. I hope that the members of our team can participate next year as well. Of course, there will be a national competition to qualify the participants next year, but after this experience, they will have good chances in the national competition as well.

The European Cybersecurity Challenge winner in 2022 was the Danish national team (see the full results of the 2022 competition). In these kinds of hacking competitions, the team which succeeds best in their teamwork usually wins.

Every night, after the intensive competition day, our team had a chance to meet other teams and get to know new people. Being able to network and make new contacts is equally important, and those connections and group discussions will continue also after the competition.

All in all, the competition in Vienna was a great experience! We all share a common interest and passion for cybersecurity and hacking. Gaming is just fun, and competing is equally fun as well.

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