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10 things you must know about our UNI CTF 2021 in November

This year's University CTF will be bigger than ever. Learn why your school's team should register for free, learn hands-on hacking skills in a fierce competition, and win great prizes!

Oct 21

It’s that time again! Our UNI CTF 2021 is coming up this November, from Friday the 19th to Sunday the 21st. This year’s event will be bigger and more exciting than ever. Teams of college and university students from around the world will fiercely compete to see who can find the most flags in our specially made interactive hacking environment the fastest. Here’s a list of everything you need to know!

  1. There is no entry fee. Your school’s team can compete in the event completely free of charge.

  2. The CTF is open to all colleges and universities worldwide. All you have to do is build a team of students and register through our site. Teams can have one to ten players.

  3. A total of £22,045 worth of prizes will be awarded to winning teams and their players. 

Prizes include Hack The Box VIP and VIP+ memberships, Hack The Box Swag Cards (get some cool looking hacker merch!), £2,000 to the first place finalist and £1,000 to the second place finalist, Amazon gift cards, PayPal hoodies, exclusive HTB trophies you can display in your room or wherever you want, and custom CTF winner certificates. Full prize and ranking information is on our site in the link below.

  1. This year’s event has a Steampunk theme. Will there be flags hidden behind clockwork and gears?

  2. Lots of university teams have already registered. Check out what some of them have said later on in this article!

  3. 19 to 21 November is technically the Qualifier CTF round. The Finals will take place sometime in the first quarter of 2022.

  4. On 18 November, the day before the event starts, we will have a series of pre-event talks. These are fun and informative, and open for anyone online to watch. Talks feature key members of the HTB Team- Sotiria Giannitsari (@r0adrunn3r), Senior Community Manager, Tom Williams, Strategic Customer Success Manager, Zeyad Almadani, Training Developer, Bob Theisen, Junior Training Developer, Lorenzo Faltera, Founder and Team Lead of Parrot OS, Katerina Tasiopoulou, Business Development Manager. There will also be a panel featuring cybersecurity program leaders from Auburn University, National University | Center for Cybersecurity, and Sheffield Hallam University. These talks are worth attending because you could learn things that help you compete in this year’s CTF event. The talk schedule can be seen on our site.

  5. Khan Academy helps to provide education to children around the world who are in need. Your free of charge participation in our CTF will help us to partner with PayPal to donate $5,000 to this great cause.

  6. 204 universities and 1,305 players participated in last year’s UNI CTF 2020. SIGINT from University of Edinburgh won top place in the Finals.

  7. Registration closes on 15 November. So get your university's team registered now!

Full information about everything can be found on our dedicated UNI CTF 2021 page. You can even sponsor the event or register your school’s team from there!

What universities are saying this year

I had the pleasure of speaking with some school representatives who have already signed up to compete in our UNI CTF 2021.

Nevan Beal, University of Tampa:

Crawley: What are you most looking forward to about participating in our UNI CTF 2021?

Beal: I am most looking forward to being able to learn more about a variety of topics with my teammates. We are shooting for the top, however I am excited to learn as much as possible throughout the CTF.


Crawley: Wonderful! Have you ever participated in a CTF before?

Beal: Yes. I have participated in the Nahamacon CTF, Raymond James CTF, past Hack The Box CTFs, and won the corlight CTF at Bsides Tampa 2021.


Crawley: You won the Bsides Tampa CTF? Cool! Do you have advice for new CTF participants?

Beal: The number one piece of advice is to never give up. Some of the challenges may be daunting, but in the long run, they are extremely beneficial. Just give it your all and you will help yourself in more ways than you know it.

Josh Hawking, University of Warwick:

Crawley: What are you most looking forward to about participating in our UNI CTF 2021?

Hawking: I think first of all I should preface my answer that I love CTFs, they give a fun and competitive way of getting to really test your knowledge on various different topics, topics of which a lot of the time you don’t get to explore and take for granted. Then adding in a competitive element to it gives you a really fun and interactive way of getting to explore these exploits, vulnerabilities, etc. rather than just reading a security vulnerability report and saying “okay, that’s cool”.

In particular, I’m a huge fan of the Hack The Box platform, many challenges on HTB are incredibly fun and have taught me things I would have never had any interest in (for example, hardware is definitely one area I didn’t know I would enjoy). I know that the UNI CTF will have some amazing challenges showing off very cool vulnerabilities and have me pondering for hours how on earth you’re supposed to get access to X, or exploit Y. Those hours of pondering will then lead to that “OH!” moment, when everything connects in your mind and you’re able to solve the challenge. It’s one of the most rewarding aspects of a CTF and something I’m very excited to look forward to in the UNI CTF.

In addition to the rewarding feeling of solving challenges, being able to work with my fellow colleagues and being able to represent our university is an exciting opportunity, one in which I always enjoy.

Zach Malinich, Penn State University:

Crawley: What are you most looking forward to about our upcoming UNI CTF 2021?

Malinich: I am looking forward to seeing what the challenges are like and how it compares to other CTFs like NCL and Pico. 


Crawley: Have you participated in CTFs before?

Malinich: I've mainly participated in the NCL competition and PicoCTF. I have also been a part of other CTFs that were hosted by the PA National Guard.


Crawley: When did you start learning about CTFs and pentesting?

Malinich: I started learning about CTFs my freshman year when my friend showed me Pico. I slowly started getting into a couple more CTFs and different cybersecurity resources. I got introduced to pen testing from the same person that showed me Pico. He was also a part of my university's cybersecurity club. The main two competitions that the club participated in were the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition and the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition. The CPTC team was doing offseason training once I got more involved with the club and my interest grew from there.

Ángel Alberto Carretero, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid:

Crawley: What are you most looking forward to about participating in our UNI CTF 2021?

Carretero: I really enjoyed the challenges last year, I felt that the quality was very high, above every local competition we took part in. This year, I am looking forward to the new challenges which, I am sure, will be even more interesting than the ones in the previous edition.

CTF tips

6 CTF tips from the HTB team

Before the CTF:

  1. Although teams with only one player are accepted, your odds of winning improve with the more team members you have. You’re allowed to have up to ten team members, so try to recruit that many players if you can!

  2. Practice, practice, practice. There are lots of machines in our Hacking Labs and Pro Labs, some of which are available without a VIP subscription. Practicing on our machines as a team will prepare you for the CTF. Try out our weekly challenge too! All of this will give your team an advantage.  

  3. Join our Discord server, find the “UNICTF21QUALS” threads, meet your opponents, ask questions. Everyone is eager to help here. Learn as much as you can from the HTB Community before you participate in our CTF. 

  4. If you’re a n00b, don’t hesitate to participate in our CTF. Our UNI CTF 2021 is a great opportunity to learn and improve your hacking skills. There’s no risk in giving it a try!

During the CTF:

  1. There will be easy, medium, and hard challenges. Try the difficulty level that’s most appropriate for you. Often experienced people target the easy challenges to skyrocket on the leaderboard. However, they quickly get overtaken by the teams that had their junior people solve the easy challenges. They may not be the quickest, but slow and steady wins the race.

After the CTF: 

  1. Create write-ups and share them with Hack The Box and the HTB Community. Not only will you be helping other people, but your write-ups can help you acquire a pentester career.


Learn more about CTFs with Hack The Box

Here’s the recap of our UNI CTF 2020.

Check out What is CTF? for your introduction to the topic.

Also, take a look at our CTF portal. You can learn about all the CTFs that Hack The Box hosts, and perhaps even start your own.

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