Veracode Launches 'Hacker Games' to Test Student Cybersecurity Skills

Application Security Testing (AST) solutions provider Veracode today announced the launch of a two-week collegiate competition designed to challenge student teams in the U.S. and the U.K. to test their secure coding skills.

The Veracode Hacker Games (March 15-26, 2021) will pit computer science and cybersecurity student teams from eight universities across the U.S. and the U.K., to compete for individual prizes (Amazon gift cards) and a grand prize of $15,000 in charitable donations for the top schools. The list of participating schools includes the University of Virginia, Indiana University, the University of New York, Stonehill College, Tufts, the University of Warwick, Queens University in Belfast, and the University of Birmingham

The way the competition works, student "coders-of-the-future" score points by finding and fixing security flaws, or "labs," in real-world examples of exploits using the Veracode Security Labs Enterprise Edition training platform.

"Only one team can emerge victorious, but all participants score valuable skills that they can carry through their coding careers," the announcement reads.

The challenges presented by the platform are designed to match the kinds of security issues the students will face on the job.

"With mounting pressure on developers to deliver software that is secure and keeps society safe from harmful cyberattacks, gaining foundational security knowledge translates to fewer exploitable problems during production and after deployment," said Chris Wysopal, Founder and Chief Technology Officer at Veracode. "Yet, training around secure coding is almost absent at the university level. We've launched The Veracode Hacker Games to help universities make secure coding a core part of their computer science and cybersecurity curriculum, while giving students an edge when it comes to putting their skills to the test in a real-world environment."

Among other things, the project seeks to "empower the next generation of software developers to write secure code at the start of the development cycle," and get those coders-of-the-future thinking about security during their formative years.

"As educators, our job is to ensure the next generation is fully prepared for the challenges they will face in their careers," said Ming Chow, Associate Teaching Professor at Tufts University, in a statement. "In this case, software development and security need to become tightly integrated from the start. The Hacker Games provides the perfect setting to put those skills to the test in a way that is engaging, fun and representative of real-world scenarios."

The challenge of building secure software is not a new one, but malicious attackers are becoming more sophisticated and persistent. According to a recent study by the University of Maryland, there's a cyberattack every 39 seconds. According to IBM, the average total cost of a data breach for a company is nearly $4 million. And the universities don't seem to be producing software developers with the skills to address these threats. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) only three percent of U.S. bachelor's degree graduates have cybersecurity-related skills.

All participating universities will be given complimentary Veracode software for a year, and Veracode will donate $10,000 and $5,000 to the computer science or cybersecurity university department of the first- and second-place teams respectively.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].