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Top 10 Cyber Hacking Competitions – Capture the Flag (CTF)

Last Updated : 26 Feb, 2024
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Cyber hacking competitions serve as platforms for participants to showcase their knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and teamwork in simulated cyber attack and defense scenarios. They cover a wide range of cybersecurity areas, including cryptography, web exploitation, binary analysis, reverse engineering, forensics, and more. Participants can compete individually or as part of a team, with prizes ranging from cash rewards to internships and opportunities to qualify for prestigious events like DEF CON CTF Finals.

Jump into the world of cyber hacking competitions with our guide to the Top 10 Cyber Hacking Competitions. These contests are all about testing your skills in cybersecurity by solving puzzles and defending against cyber attacks.

Top-10-Cyber-Hacking-Competitions-–-Capture-the-Flag-CTF

As we all know, the Cyber Hacking Competitions have often known as the Capture the Flag (CTF) contests. These contests run every month by various organizations and universities across the globe. These contests can be arranged in the 3 styles:

  1. Jeopardy 
  2. Attack & Defense 
  3. Mixed Style 

Meanwhile, there is a website (www.ctftime.org) which can track all the contest throughout the year and anyone can check there how many contests are running at present. 

Top 10 Cyber Hacking Competitions – Capture the Flag (CTF)

Here in this article, we’ll let you know about 10 best Capture the Flag cyber hacking competitions:

1. Insomni’hack (CTF Weight 100)

This Ethical Hacking contest final is played at the conference and this conference takes place in Geneva, Switzerland. Organizers will cover the hotel and the tickets for the event for the top 3 teams. The 4th, 5th, and 6th teams will receive tickets for the conference. The organizers think crypto-currencies can’t be trusted, so they provide real, old-fashioned silver for the top 3 teams and the top 3 student teams will receive dedicated prices and swag.  

  • Website Link – Insomni’hack
  • Focus: Ethical hacking and security challenges
  • Format: Onsite, team-based (usually limited to 8 participants)
  • Duration: Throughout the night (typically starting after talks conclude at the conference)
  • Prizes: Silver trophies and potential additional swag for top teams
  • Organization: SCRT S.A. (now Orange Cyberdefense Switzerland)

2. 0CTF/TCTF (CTF Weight 99.55)

This contest is organized by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University team 0ops and Tencent eee. The format of the game is jeopardy style and open for every team in the world. Meanwhile, there is no restriction on the number of participants of any team as well. 0CTF is also considered as one of the hardest CTF contests. 

  • Website Link – 0CTF/TCTF
  • Focus: web exploitation, cryptography, forensics, and more/
  • Format: Online, Jeopardy-style, individual/teams
  • Duration: 48 hours (Most recent: Dec 9-11, 2023)
  • Prizes: 1st: $3137 + DEF CON 32 Quals, 2nd: $1337, 3rd: $731
  • Organized by: 0ops & Tencent eee

3. GoogleCTF (CTF Weight 96.34)

As Google organizes various geeky contests over a year, it also organizes the world’s best cyber hacking competition GoogleCTF. This contest consists of two events where the first event is a qualifier round. Here they cover a wide area of security exercises to test the security skills of the participants. From this first round, Google selects a number of teams to participate in the final round that will be held at the on-site location of Google office. The top 10 teams invited to the finals, compete onsite for a prize pool of more than USD $31,337

  • Website Link – GoogleCTF
  • Focus: cryptography, web exploitation, binary analysis, and reverse engineering.
  • Format: Online Quals (48hrs, teams/solo) + On-site Finals (Top 8)
  • Duration: Quals vary (usually April/May), Finals 1-2 days
  • Prizes: Grand Prize: Big $$$ + Internship, Others: Cash, Hardware, Swag
  • Organized by: Google Security Team + Sponsors

4. PlaidCTF (CTF Weight 93.15)

This contest is organized by Carnegie Mellon University’s competitive hacking team, Plaid Parliament of Pwning also known as PPP. Plaid CTF is a web-based CTF. Cash prizes for the top 3 teams are 8192 USD, 4096 USD, and 2048 USD, respectively. The winner will qualify for Defcon CTF Finals. Moreover, there is no limit to the number of individuals participating per team.

  • Website Link – PlaidCTF
  • Focus: Finance-themed CTF (cryptography, web exploitation, reverse engineering, and finance-specific challenges.)
  • Format: Online, teams/solo (48hrs), Fall season
  • Prizes: $$$, swag, opportunities (TBA)
  • Organized by: Plaid (fintech company) + Sponsors

Note: Dates & prizes TBA. Check PlaidCTF website closer to Fall.

5. DEF CON (CTF Weight 67.72)

DEF CON is one of the biggest and also the oldest hacker’s summit, held annually in Las Vegas(USA). First, it took place in June 1993. DEF CON includes cybersecurity researchers, journalists, federal government agents, security professionals, students. Initially, this event was organized by team Binjitsu by ddtek till the year 2012 and after it was organized by the team Legitimate Business Syndicate till the year 2017 and afterward it is organized by the team Order of the Overflow. The Black Badge is the greatest award DEF CON gives to contest winners. Actually, prize money is not fixed but last year 2019, seven finalists competed against each other for 2M$ grand prize money.

  • Website Link – DEF CON
  • Focus: Prestigious CTF across cyber areas (cybersecurity areas, including cryptography, web exploitation, binary analysis, reverse engineering, forensics, and more.)
  • Format: Online Quals + On-site Finals (teams/solo)
  • Duration: Quals (48hrs), Finals (2-3 days at DEF CON)
  • Prizes: Grand Prize (big $$$ + more), Others (vary), All: Experience & Skills
  • Organized: DEF CON (hacker convention) + Sponsors

Note: Challenging, world-renowned event!

6. FAUST CTF (CTF Weight 65.0)

FAUST CTF is the classic online attack-defense CTF. This CTF competition is run by the CTF team of Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg Germany. Each team will be given a Vulnbox image to host itself and VPN access. You will run exploits against other teams, capture flags, and submit them to our server. Prizes are given by the sponsors as First place: €512, Second place: €256, Third place: €128. Additionally, for each service, the first team to exploit it, submit a valid flag, and provide a write-up will win €64.

  • Website Link – FAUST CTF
  • Focus: Attack & defend vulnerable systems (CTF)
  • Format: 24-hour online battle
  • Frequency: Annual (Most recent: Sept 23, 2023)
  • Prizes: Grand prize + best defense/exploit awards (hardware, travel, etc.)
  • Organized by: FAUST, CTF team of Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg

7. ASIS CTF Quals (CTF Weight 64.97)

ASIS CTF is the online jeopardy format CTF. This event is organized by the asis team, It is an academic team of Iran. In this event, there are some set of challenges categories like Crypto, Web, Reverse Engineering, Pwn, and Forensics. Also, there is no limit to the number of team members.

  • Website Link – ASIS CTF Quals
  • Focus: Jeopardy-style online CTF
  • Format: Individual or team participation
  • Duration: 24 hours (Most recent: Sept 22-23, 2023)
  • Prizes: Top teams receive cash prizes
  • Organized by: ASIS

8. Pwn2Win CTF (CTF Weight 63.56)

Pwn2Win CTF is the online jeopardy style CTF. It is organized by the Epic Leet team, a Brazilian CTF team. The CTF is designed for advanced and intermediate players. The duration of the event is 48 hours straight. The prizes are as follows – Top 1: Internet Fame level Gold + Personalized Certificates, Top 2: Internet Fame level Silver + Personalized Certificates, Top 3: Internet Fame level Bronze + Personalized Certificates. The personalized certificates are just like “medals” from the event, something that you will use to testify your participation and Top 3 in this hardcore competition. 

  • Website Link – Pwn2Win CTF
  • Focus: Attack & defend systems (CTF)
  • Format: 48-hour online battle, teams of 6
  • Duration: Usually 2-3 days (Most recent: Dec 8-10, 2023)
  • Prizes: $10k (1st), $5k (2nd), $2.5k (3rd) + category awards
  • Organized by: Pwn2Win security research group

9. InCTF International (CTF Weight 53.95)

InCTF is the online jeopardy format style CTF. This is the first-ever Indian CTF. This event is organized by the team bi0s. Bi0s team is the academic team of Amrita University, Amritapuri Campus. This event basically focuses on the basic CTF category (Crypto, Web, Reversing, Pwn, Forensics). The set of challenges has pretty good quality and everyone enjoys solving them. 

  • Website Link – InCTF International
  • Focus: Solve security challenges (Jeopardy-style)
  • Format: Team up with 4 friends
  • Duration: 48-hour online battle (Most recent: Oct 27-29, 2023)
  • Prizes: €10k (1st), €5k (2nd), €2.5k (3rd) + category awards
  • Organized by: InCTF (cybersecurity research group at NIST)

10. RCTF (CTF Weight 52.89)

RCTF is the Jeopardy-style online Capture the Flag contest presented by team ROIS. It is an academic team of Fuzhou University, China. ROIS stands for Research Of Information Security. The prizes are as follows: for 1st place 1,500 USD & qualification to XCTF Final, 2nd place 800 USD, and 3rd place 500 USD

  • Website Link – RCTF
  • Focus: Attack & defend systems(Cryptography, Web Exploitation, Reverse Engineering, and Binary Analysis)
  • Format: 48-hour online battle, teams of 6
  • Duration: Usually 2-3 days. (Most recent: Nov 17-19, 2023)
  • Prizes: $10k (1st), $5k (2nd), $2.5k (3rd) + category awards
  • Organized by: RITSEC (cybersecurity organization at RIT)

Meanwhile, all these CTF contest rankings are according to ctftime rating (Previous and this year including). Also, these competitions are very geeky, and when you play solo or with your friends in these contests, you guys will have a lot of fun and also gain knowledge from it!!

Final Thoughts

For cybersecurity enthusiasts and ethical hackers looking to level up their skills, participating in Capture the Flag (CTF) competitions is an exhilarating journey. These events not only test your knowledge, problem-solving abilities, and teamwork but also offer diverse challenges suited for all skill levels. From Insomni’hack’s real-world scenarios to DEF CON’s prestigious atmosphere, there’s something for everyone. So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to check out 10 popular CTFs and join the ultimate challenge to elevate your cybersecurity expertise

Top 10 Cyber Hacking Competitions(CTF) – FAQs

How much do cybersecurity analysts make?

BLS: Info security analysts earned $119,860 annually in May 2023.

ZipRecruiter: Cyber Security Analysts average $99,400 yearly (Feb 2024).

Coursera: Cybersecurity analysts earned $112,000 median salary in 2022.

Can I earn money from cybersecurity competitions?

Cybersecurity competitions offer earning opportunities: Prizes: Top competitions like GoogleCTF, DEF CON CTF, and PlaidCTF award cash prizes.

How old do I have to be to enter a cybersecurity competition?

Cybersecurity competitions vary in age requirements. Some are open to all ages, ideal for beginners. Others target teenagers with minimum ages of 13 or 16, nurturing skills in younger generations. Advanced competitions cater to professionals, potentially imposing higher age limits or focusing on industry-specific challenges.



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