7 September 2017

CUHK Wins Championship in the PwC’s First Cybersecurity Competition



Against a backdrop of global concern in recent years over cyber-attacks on government bodies and corporations, a team of students representing The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has clinched the championship in the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Hong Kong's first ever hacking competition - HackaDay 2017. During the competition, a total of 9 teams from 5 Hong Kong universities competed intensely in a 6-hour hacking session. The CUHK team demonstrated a strong team spirit, outstanding skills, and a good level of knowledge when tackling the challenges, enabling them to stand out from the competition as a champion.

The winning team was comprised of four undergraduates from the Engineering and Science Faculties. With a keen interest in programming design and cybersecurity topics, they immersed themselves in workshops, hackathons, and meet-ups of CUHK Open Innovation Lab (OIL) which is a self-initiated student group that actively promotes open technology on campus. The students’ participation in OIL activities and their eagerness to adopt new approaches enabled them to learn beyond boundaries and gain extensive knowledge of open technology, internet engineering and cybersecurity from alumni and experts.

Identifying and stopping the cyber loophole is always the key to protecting against hackers. In order to be well prepared for the competition, the students teamed up and spent two months attending intensive training sessions provided by Prof. Lau Wing Cheong and Prof. Zhang Kehuan from the Department of Information Engineering. Each of the team possesses potential skills in specific hacking categories ranging through Crypto, Web, Binary reverse engineering to networking hacks. The team members cooperated well by focusing training on their respective strengths. The team also studied a variety of real life cases and problems, appeared at different hacker contests to simulate hacking processes, and carried out penetration tests to improve skills and efficiency.

The team name 'WannaCry' was inspired by a high profile WannaCry ransomware attack which took place in May 2017, worldwide. It targeted computers running the Microsoft Windows operating system by encrypting data and demanding ransom payments in the Bitcoin crypto currency, after internet users had neglected to take available precautions early in March 2017. In the face of new cyber-attacks, the team realises the importance of prevention.

PwC designed 15 challenges for the cybersecurity competition and the team performed the best by completing 11 challenges in non-stop hacking. PwC hopes that the event will raise cybersecurity awareness and increase the competency level of Hong Kong’s new talent. Zeng Yihui and Tong Cham Fei will take up a half year internship with PwC Hong Kong and China Cybersecurity and Privacy Team plus a fully sponsored Offensive Security Certified Professional certification in the coming year. They will join Wang Xianbo to pursue study in cyber security upon completion of the internship. Leung Shing Yuet, on the other hand, will focus his final year project on cybersecurity to prepare himself to be a professional in this area in the future.

(From left) Prof. Zhang Kehuan, Assistant Professor, Department of Information Engineering; Tong Cham Fei, Year 4 student, Department of Computer Science and Engineering; Leung Shing Yuet, Year 4 student, Department of Information Engineering; Wang Xianbo and Zeng Yihui, 2017 graduates, Department of Mathematices; and Prof. Lau Wing Cheong, Associate Professor, Department of Information Engineering, CUHK.
(From left) Prof. Zhang Kehuan, Assistant Professor, Department of Information Engineering; Tong Cham Fei, Year 4 student, Department of Computer Science and Engineering; Leung Shing Yuet, Year 4 student, Department of Information Engineering; Wang Xianbo and Zeng Yihui, 2017 graduates, Department of Mathematices; and Prof. Lau Wing Cheong, Associate Professor, Department of Information Engineering, CUHK.

(From left) Members of 'WannaCry', the champion team in the PwC's HackaDay: Leung Shing Yuet, Tong Cham Fei, Wang Xianbo, and Zeng Yihui.
(From left) Members of 'WannaCry', the champion team in the PwC's HackaDay: Leung Shing Yuet, Tong Cham Fei, Wang Xianbo, and Zeng Yihui.