CyberTaipan is an Australian cyber security competition that is modelled on the US Air Force Association’s CyberPatriot program. This program has been running successfully for 11 years and has already expanded into Canada as CyberTitan, the UK as CyberCenturion and Saudi Arabia as CyberArabia.
The competition puts teams of high school aged students in the position of newly hired IT professionals, tasked with managing the network of a small company.
Through several rounds of competition, teams are provided a set of virtual images that represent operating systems. Over a six-hour period, each team is tasked with finding cyber security vulnerabilities within the images, receiving points for hardening the system while maintaining critical services. Teams compete for a chance to represent their school or community group in the National Finals.
CyberTaipan is open to anyone between 12-18 years of age with an interest in cyber, defence, puzzles and code breaking.
To take part, all you need is a Team Coach and a group of 2-6 teammates. Team Coaches can to register at our Get Involved page.
WHY CHALLENGES ARE IMPORTANT
Cyber security challenges are a gamified way for learners to develop and test their practical skills. Through immersion in real-world scenarios, students gain practical experience in what it is like to operate as a cyber security practitioner in the workplace.
Challenges are a great way for students to develop a range of valuable skills including:
- Technical cyber security and network defence abilities
- Teamwork and professional communication skills
- Research and planning methodologies
- Critical thinking and risk management techniques
- Creative thinking, curiosity and resourcefulness
- Adaptability and change management
- Troubleshooting and remaining calm under pressure
(Dates are indicative only and subject to change. Each round has its own unique images which are only accessible during that timeframe)
23 July – 17 August: Registrations open and Exhibition round begins. After registering, competition images are sent to Team Coaches to familiarise themselves with, test hardware, and recruit team members. There are no explicit training tasks at this stage.
7 September – 5 October: Training round begins. Competition images are sent to Team Coaches along with training materials to educate their teams.
11 October – 23 October: Final practice round begins. Coaches are connected with a Technical Mentor to assist with training. New practice images are sent to Team Coaches for final training classes.
3 November – 5 November: Round 1. All teams compete with the final results sent to Team Coaches and released on the Leaderboard.
8 December – 10 December: Round 2. All teams compete with final results sent to Team Coaches and released on the Leaderboard. Teams progressing the the National Finals are notified soon after.
March 2019: National Finals! Top 10 teams get an all-expenses paid trip to Canberra, ACT to compete in the national finals.
CyberTaipan is a fun competition that brings together people with different skills from diverse backgrounds. There are a few rules that teams must follow:
- The competition is played by teams of two to five students, with an optional reserve player
- Each team must include a responsible adult (over 18) as the contact between the organisers and the participants (the Coach)
- Every team participant must be aged 12-18 years during the entirety of the competition (until March 2019).
- CyberTaipan is closed to university teams. Cyber Security Challenge Australia (CysCA) offers alternative competitions for university students, click here for more information
- While the 2018-19 pilot is being initially launched in the Australian Capital Territory and Victoria, anyone in the Australia that meets the age requirements and has the correct team format is welcome to participate. It is free to register for the training rounds and get a feel for the competition. Teams wishing to compete in the scored rounds will need to pay a fee of AUD$200 per team. This fee covers the costs of a participants pack for all competitors.
A copy of the complete competition rules book can be downloaded here.
How does the competition work?
Each team must play a series of online qualifying rounds, which will challenge them to learn about networking, cyber defence and cyber security. If the team scores higher than most of the other competing teams on the leader board, then they will be invited to play in the National Finals, a face-to-face competition which determines the ultimate champion team for the year.
All rounds of competition in CyberTaipan, with the exception of the National Finals Competition, take place online. Teams may compete from any location; many participate at their school, organisation, or public library. Competitions take place at specified times throughout the school year. Teams must complete all their work during one six consecutive-hour period on the scheduled days of the competition window. They may only have one instance of an image open at a time.
Many of these steps are illustrated in this CyberPatriot instructional video.
CyberTaipan teams consist of the following team members:
CyberTaipan Coaches are the backbone of the competition. CyberTaipan requires an adult to register as a team Coach before any students are permitted to register or compete. Coaches are adults (e.g. teachers, parents, staff members) approved by a participating school or educational organisation to act as the administrative lead of a CyberTaipan team. Having one, and only one, adult Coach of record for each team is a non-negotiable requirement.
Coaches DO NOT need to be technically savvy, as teams are welcome to work with Technical Mentors as described below, but all Coaches are responsible for the following:
- Ensuring competitor safety by controlling access to minors, following legal and school requirements, and adequately supervising students during practice rounds and all rounds of competition.
- Protecting the competitions integrity by ensuring students receive no assistance from Mentors, Team Assistants, or anyone else during competition rounds. Coaches are also responsible for upholding the rules, time limits, and download limits as outlined in the CyberTaipan Rule Book.
- Acting as the CyberTaipan Program Office’s main point of contact for the team. Preparation emails for each round of competition, as well as the links to download competition images, are only sent to Coaches. The role of official point of contact may not be delegated to a Technical Mentor. Additionally, should we need to contact a team about score discrepancies, registration issues, or any other competition matters, we will use the information on file for the team’s Coach. All CyberTaipan Coaches should therefore ensure that they are capable of receiving messages from firstname.lastname@example.org, which may be blocked by school firewalls.
Each CyberTaipan team must consist of between two and six competitors enrolled in the participating school, organisation or community group. While up to six students are permitted on each team’s roster, a maximum of five students are permitted to compete at any one time during a competition round. The competitor not competing may act as a substitute, and cannot assist the active competitors.
A Competitor shall compete on only one team during a CyberTaipan season. To be a Competitor, students must be over the age of 12 and under the age of 18 on or before the registration deadline.
Technical Mentors are IT-experienced individuals who volunteer their time to teach cyber defence skills and cyber ethics to CyberTaipan teams. All Mentors are required to register on the CyberTaipan website and successfully complete a Working with Vulnerable People check before being added to the list of approved Mentors (Minimum age: 18).
Mentors must not teach hacking skills or offensive cyber tactics to Competitors, and meet with a team only with the Coach’s approval. One or more registered Mentors may be chosen by a Coach to assist in training his or her CyberTaipan team(s). Teams are not required to have a Technical Mentor. CyberTaipan Technical Mentors are welcome to assist multiple teams. There is no minimum time commitment for Technical Mentors. For example, a Technical Mentor can volunteer on a guest lecture basis or commit to training a team throughout the competition season. Suggested responsibilities include the following:
- Advising the Team Coach on skills
- Developing, with the Team Coach’s guidance, a plan to teach cyber defence skills and
- Teaching and assisting Competitors with cyber defence skills and
Team Assistants are adult volunteers who provide non-technical support and encouragement to the team, such as assisting with scheduling, set-up, snacks, and transportation. Team Assistants are required to register on the CyberTaipan website and successfully complete a Working with Vulnerable People check before being added to the list of approved Assistants.
Before the round
- Train: Teams should start training for the competition as soon as they can before the first round. Teams should rely on their Technical Mentors to receive more advanced training. Archived training materials are available on the public site of the CyberPatriot website. Additional materials for the CyberTaipan competition will be made available to Team Coaches directly.
- Prepare: All teams should make sure that they have the hardware, software, and network capabilities required to compete successfully. As the goal of the program is to have as many teams as possible competing, technical requirements are kept to a minimum. Technical specifications can be found below.
- Download: About a week before the competition begins, the CyberTaipan Program Office sends an email with round instructions and links to download the virtual machine images (operating systems that can be played on top of other operating systems). These files are very large and should be downloaded well before a team is ready to compete. Teams also verify that their download was successful before the round begins. There will usually be two or three images per round.
During the round
- Extract: In the morning of the competition window period, teams receive an email with the password to extract the virtual machine images from their downloads. After doing so, they can load the images in VMware Player and begin competing.
- Identify: When the images are opened, teams are prompted to enter a Team ID. This is a 10-digit alphanumeric code that is assigned to teams and delivered to them along with the extraction password.
- Fix: The goal of every CyberTaipan competition is to find and fix vulnerabilities in their images. These images range from simple (e.g. giving users strong passwords) to much more complex. Teams can also gain points by answering questions about their actions on the image.
- Score: When teams fix a vulnerability that is being checked, they receive points. If they take an action that makes a system less secure, they lose points. Teams can also gain points by answering forensics questions about actions they took to solve their vulnerabilities. Teams can check on their progress at any time on their score report page.
- Compare: A live scoreboard is available for teams to see how they stack up against others in the country. These scores are unofficial and undergo review by CyberTaipan staff following the competition.
- Ask: CyberTaipan staff are available to answer technical support questions during the round by chat and by phone during peak competition hours. Instructions for accessing the tech support chat are sent to teams at the beginning of each round. Teams may not ask questions about vulnerabilities during the technical chats.
After the round
Delete: All virtual machine images should be deleted after the round is over to maintain the integrity of the competition.
Wait: CyberTaipan staff review all the scores following the competition and releases official scores and standings to teams as soon as practicable after the round is over.
Celebrate: Whether or not your team makes it to the National Finals Competition, all competing students should be incredibly proud of themselves! They have learnt invaluable skills and hopefully discovered exciting education and career pathways they were not aware of before.
The goal of CyberTaipan is to have as many teams as possible take part in the competition, no matter where in Australia they are. We understand that some schools and organisations do not have as much access to equipment as others, so technical specifications have been kept to a minimum. In every round except the National Finals competition, teams can participate from any location. Many teams participate at their school, their organisational headquarters (e.g scout hall), or a library.
Notice: ALL TEAMS ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE 64-BIT HOST COMPUTERS AND OPERATING SYSTEMS TO COMPETE SUCCESSFULLY IN CYBERTAIPAN
Speak now to your relevant school IT administrator to plan how you can successfully compete in CyberTaipan.
If you have any questions concerning 64-bit system requirements or need help please read the hardware and software requirements below or contact the CyberTaipan Program Office at email@example.com
The following are the hardware requirements for CyberTaipan. Each host computer must be able to run VMware Workstation Player 14.1.2. It is recommended that teams use one host machine for each image in a round. If teams do not have access to enough host machines, it is recommended that they do not run more than one image on a single machine at one time. If they do so, these specifications will be inadequate.
Processor: (made 2011 or after) Intel 64-bit i3 processor of the generation “Sandy Bridge” or better, OR AMD 64-bit processor of the generation “Bulldozer” or better
Virtual Extensions: Virtualisation technology/extensions (e.g., VT-x, Vx) must be ENABLED in BIOS
RAM: 8 GB of RAM (4 GB may cause performance issues that will not receive special consideration)
Disk Space: 40 GB of free disk space
Display: XGA 1024 x 768 or higher display (1280 x 1024 recommended)
NOTE: Some competition images will not work with the virtual technology disabled in the BIOS.
In order to participate in CyberTaipan, a host system must be able to run VMware Workstation Player 14.1.2 and higher versions on their host systems. VMware Workstation Player 14.1.2 is free software that runs on 64-bit host operating system. Some host systems will appear to conform to the above requirements but are still unable to run VMware Player 14.1.2. If you are not sure whether your system is capable of running the software, please refer to the VMware Workstation Player Documentation.
Teams using computers made before 2011 or some mobile processors (e.g., Intel Atom, AMD Bobcat) may have compatibility issues with the CyberPatriot competition software and VMWare Workstation Player 14.1.2 and higher versions. Teams that receive a “This host does not support virtualizing real mode” error when using VMware Workstation Player 14.1.2 may use VMware Workstation Player 12.5.9. Issues stemming from the use of VMWare Workstations PLayer 12.5.98 will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the AFA Support Team.
64-Bit Windows 7 or later. Must be capable of running VMware Workstation Player 14.1.2 or later. Other operating systems such as Apple Mac Operating Systems and Linux Operating Systems may be used at the team’s own risk, but issues resulting from their use (e.g., the image does not open, image locks up, score checks do not work, etc.), are not grounds for appeal or special consideration. Teams with Mac and other non-Windows operating systems should have at least one Windows computer that meets technical specifications for the competition.
To determine if your Windows operating system is 64-bit either:
- Go to Control Panel and Click the System icon – OR –
- Click the Start or Windows button
- Right click on the Computer or This PC icon
- Click Properties
In either case, the System screen appears. In the System section of the screen your system type will be identified like this:
System type: 64-bit Operating System (or something similar)
Teams will also need to be able to download and install the following programs onto their Host computer/s:
- CyberPatriot Competition System (CCS) Connection Test
- Used to check network connections to the scoring server without using an image.
- CyberPatriot Competition System (CCS) Connection Test
- Used for verifying the checksum of the images to ensure that they have been fully downloaded. Install guide
- Used for unzipping the images after they have been downloaded. Install guide
- VMware Workstation Player 14.1.2 or later for Windows
- Used to play the images after they have been unzipped. How to open a virtual machine image. VMware Workstation Player is free software that runs on 64-bit host operating system. The official version of VMware Workstation Player will be announced before the competition season because updates made by VMware may provide better compatibility. Earlier versions of VMware Player are available, but issues stemming from the use of these versions are not grounds for appeal.
Notes on competing with Apple MAC operating systems
Due to the paid nature of VMware Fusion and the limited number of teams using Mac systems, the CyberTaipan Program Office does not test or provide support for this software or other Apple Mac software.
Teams using Apple Mac computers should have a Windows computer available during the competition in case there is a compatibility issue with the software. The Windows computer must meet technical specifications listed on this page to be compatible with the CyberTaipan software.
Issues stemming from the use of Apple Mac software, Fusion, or other Apple Mac software are not grounds for appeal or special consideration. If you have access only to Apple computers, please see this unofficial guide from a CyberPatriot Coach for advice on how to participate in the competition: CyberPatriot Mac Guide.
BIOS and virtual extension requirements
Virtual extensions or similar settings must be enabled in the host computer BIOS if the VMware Workstation Player fails to function correctly.
Website access requirements
The minimal website access required to participate in CyberTaipan is listed below. The website access list is not all-inclusive and does not include research and updates for applications.
Website Reason for Access
www.austcyber.com Competition Information, Timetable, Leaderboard
www.microsoft.com Information on Windows OS and Updates
www.vmware.com VMware software required to compete
www.7-zip.com 7-Zip compression software is required to compete
www.canonical.com Ubuntu software updates
www.ubuntu.com Ubuntu information
http://winmd5.com/ MD5 checksum required to test competition file integrity
www.netacad.com Cisco Networking Academy website for training
s3.amazonaws.com Links to competition information
Search Engine Google, Bing, etc. for research and to find updates
Web Browsers Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc. for updates, etc.
CyberTaipan requires a DSL or faster network connection. Speed of the network will affect the responsiveness of the scoring notification sounds (scoring servers are located in the US and therefore there is a small 1-2 minute delay in images outputting notification sounds when earning competition points). The most common difficulty encountered by teams during competition is having their traffic blocked by a school firewall, filter, or proxy server. All teams will need unrestricted access to HTTP on Port 80 to participate in CyberTaipan. If your school has restrictions on access through Port 80, please contact the CyberTaipan Program Office at firstname.lastname@example.org
If network issues do arise, teams should first contact the IT administrator for their network. The CyberTaipan Program Office can then work with these individuals to determine other methods of allowing teams to access the scoring server from their location.
Check back for details on prizes closer to the competition launch!
We are currently working with partners on potential prizes – if you are interested in supporting CyberTaipan, please get in touch via our partners page.
Participation in CyberTaipan is also a great experience to include on your resume and may assist with securing work experience and employment opportunities.
WORKING WITH CHILDREN CHECK
A valid Working with Children Check is required for all Team Coaches, Assistants and Technical Mentors. Legislation around these checks are slightly different in every state. You may know this check as a ‘Working with Vulnerable People Registration’ (ACT), or a ‘Blue Card’ (QLD). Information on these checks and the requirements needed to fulfil them can be found on the Australian Institute of Family Studies website.