NSA Codebreaker Challenge

Posted on 10/3/17 12:00 AM

The NSA is offering their National Codebreaker Challenge once again! Current IUP students are invited to participate. The challenge has you complete a series of tasks to simulate defending a network.

The fictitious scenario they have you simulate is stated below:


The following is a fictitious story meant for providing realistic context for the Codebreaker Challenge, and is not tied in any way to actual events.


The Department of Homeland Security has requested NSA’s assistance in investigating unusual network activity within a large SCADA system. The system controls critical infrastructure for multiple cities, so it’s imperative that an assessment is carried out immediately. If any intrusions are found, then we need to identify how the systems were compromised and neutralize the threat. DHS is concerned that someone might be attempting to take control of the distributed sensor nodes and form a large botnet. If this happens, they could use it to wreak havoc across the cities and potentially launch DDoS attacks against other critical networks. We need your help to stop this from happening.

For this challenge, you will be given a series of six tasks, each increasing in difficulty, with the ultimate goal of completely neutralizing the botnet. These tasks are summarized as follows:

  • Set up a test instance of the system (Task 0)
  • Analyze suspicious network traffic (Task 1)
  • Develop a network signature for an intrusion detection system (Task 2)
  • Analyze critical system components for vulnerabilities (Tasks 3 and 4)
  • Perform forensic analysis of a compromised endpoint (Task 5)
  • Craft an exploit for the botnet server and devise a strategy to clean the infected endpoints (Task 6)

Are you up to the challenge? Go to the Codebreaker Challenge website to apply!

This challenge is open to any IUP student who wants to participate, and ends on December 31, 2017.