As you may remember, PPP qualified this year for the annual Korean Codegate competition. This is one of the most popular CTF competitions in the world, which made it an impressive feat to even make it to the final round for a second time.
This year the team decided to schedule more time in Korea than last year, giving more chances to see Seoul and hang out with other teams. Although we were disappointed that the top teams this year were not as geographically diverse as last year, we were happy that another American team, Disekt, was around.
bit lot of resting from the long flight from Pittsburgh, we went to COEX so the competition organizers could record some rather embarrassing videos of our team to play during the competition. We then met up with Disekt, as well as our friend LarsH from Hacking for Soju (HFS) for some pre-CTF dinner.
Of course, we came to Korea to hack, and so early the next morning we traveled to COEX for the competition. In order to make the competition more observer friendly, the organizers this year changed the way that scoring in the competition would take place. Rather than simply submitting keys for points, the game was actually styled after the Korean game Yut. Although this was a bit confusing at first, it ended up not changing the game play too much.
We were a bit disappointed (though not surprised) to see that this year the competition focused less on binaries problems and more on forensics. Of course, that’s no reason for us not to solve problems! By about half way through the competition, PPP was in the lead.
Of course, as we learned last year, it is very easy for one to lose one’s position, so if we wanted to stay in first, we needed to keep solving problems!
After a lot of furious googling to solve forensics problems and very little sleep, we managed to maintain our position, despite the other teams working hard to get ahead. At the end of the 24 hour match we had a comfortable lead of 8 spaces on the Yut board.
Behind us were the teams PLUS (who were originally not going to participate in the finals) and One-Eyed Jack, both of which are awesome teams from Korea. Although we tried to return to our hotel to get some rest before the final ceremonies and dinner with other teams, we were called back to talk to some reporters about the competition and our team. Despite not having slept for about 30 hours at that point, we still enjoyed the speakers and final ceremony.
After finally getting a chance to go back to our hotel with just enough time to shower (but sadly not so sleep), we went back out to have dinner with the awesome organizers and other great teams.
Of course, even though the competition ended, this was not the end of our trip! After a day to catch up on sleep, we spent some time with HFS.
After first going out to dinner with HFS as well as some organizers from the competition, we then found a Korean pool hall. Luckily pool skills were not tested in Codegate, as HFS is much better at it.
The next day the team went to Seoul Women’s University to give some talks on security. This was a bit different from our normal routine, so we weren’t quite sure how things would work out.
We presented two talks to a classroom full of students: one talk on buffer overflows and preventions, and another talk on lockpicking. As most of you probably know, computer science/engineering is a field with a disproportionately large amount of males, so it was great seeing that many female students interested in computers and computer security.
After we left, we had dinner with a few awesome students from Seoul Women’s University, generously paid for by the professors Hyung Jong Kim and Yoonjeong Kim. Some of the students had recently formed a group for people interested in computer security, we hope to see them participate in CTF competitions soon.
The next day we met up with one of Brian’s friends for lunch at a Korean Chinese restaurant and to see some new parts of Seoul.
We then toured around Seoul seeing some impressive historic places and monuments, eventually we wandered into a small “tea museum”, where we each tried different types of teas.
After finishing our tea, we went to a large open market/mall to see some random Korean shops. Soon after, we met up with another friend of Brian’s, who was an organizer in Codegate both this year and last, to go up to Namsan tower.
After getting to the tower and walking around for a little bit, we went back to the city to get some food. For our last night in Korea, we met up with some graduate students under a professor Yong Su Park, who is currently visiting Cylab CMU.
Of course, we love Korean food, so that couldn’t have been the end of it. When we woke up the next morning to go to the airport with Brian’s dad, we stopped for one last Korean lunch, as well.
With no more last Korean meals to take, we headed back to America, to catch up on a week’s worth of missed classes and homework. We had a great time in Korea! Thank you to all the Codegate organizers and all the friends we met (and made) in Seoul for such a great week.
Hope to see you all again next year!