Arjen Wiersma is a Professor from Hogeschool NOVI. He just celebrated his one year anniversary as a HTB Ambassador. Congratulations! I interviewed Wiersma to find out how he first got involved with Hack The Box, how Hack The Box helps NOVI’s cybersecurity program, and what being an HTB Ambassador is all about.
Kim “Crowgirl” Crawley: How did you first connect with Hack The Box?
Arjen Wiersma: My first connection with HTB was when HTB started. I was working in the security field, and found it as a training spot for my offensive skill set. I also used it to work on my OSCP certification during that time. So for me it was a ‘hone your skills’ platform before anything else.
Crawley: What's the name of the program you're in charge of at NOVI, and how have you integrated the Hack The Box platform with it?
Wiersma: At NOVI, I run the cybersecurity division. I recently gave a talk for HTB during the University CTF event on how I built a curriculum using Hack The Box. But first, my division! NOVI is a private school, our students follow the program, and end up with a Bachelor degree. Part of that program is a specialization year, in total for 70 ECTS (credits). During that specialization year, they can follow a basic cybersecurity course in which all the offensive techniques and methodologies are taught using a dedicated environment on HTB.
During the main year, they are taught software security and organizational security. In the former (software security), we deep dive into the world of software and the vulnerabilities that are part of this work field. From OWASP Top 10, to reverse engineering and exploit development. The HTB platform allows students to apply and test these techniques on machines.
When I started back in 2019, NOVI did not have a cybersecurity curriculum, so I built everything up from scratch and HTB has been very valuable in this process.
Crawley: How did you become an HTB Ambassador?
Wiersma: As NOVI, was quite new to the cybersecurity field, and HTB did not have a meetup in The Netherlands. So I decided to start hosting a monthly meetup starting in April of 2020. Due to COVID, all the meetups up to now have been online of course. Since than we have had eighteen meetups. After my first six meetups, I became an Ambassador for HTB.
Crawley: Do you have any tips for other schools on how to get the most benefit from HTB's platform?
Wiersma: Adding HTB to our curriculum has given students a fun and safe way to practice their skills. As a school, you can already get started by having a "hacking club" or something like that where you just do HTB as a side activity before adding it to the curriculum. This gives a nice and easy way to test the waters before diving in full-on. If there are classes that teach hacking techniques, then the HTB platform is uniquely suited to just have them try it, which helps them reinforce the techniques that they have been taught.
Crawley: Do you have any advice for people who want to start their own HTB Meetups or become an HTB Ambassador?
Wiersma: Do not host meetups just to become an ambassador. Hosting meetups takes a lot of time and preparation each time you give them. The Netherlands meetups are on a monthly schedule, so prep work starts as soon as the meetup ends. The meetups are one of the most rewarding things I have done in the community.
We have a large core group that joins every meetup, we have newbies that come to the meetup that we try to help as well as possible. Between the meetups we have an active Discord channel on which we gather and share all types of things. The community makes it worth it. After six meetups, you can become an Ambassador, which is an awesome thing. HTB tries to make you feel part of a family and you know they have your back.
HTB meetups are a great way to get into the hacking community. Even if you’re a total newbie, meetups can offer you guidance and support as you progress in your journey as a hacker. Learn more about meetups here, see if there’s one in your area.
Hack The Box works with over 550 universities and colleges around the world, to enhance their information technology and computer science curriculums with our hands-on penetration testing training platform. I wrote more about how HTB works with universities on our blog. You can also learn more on our website. We would love to work with your school!
Capture The Flag games are a great way for groups of people to compete with each other and improve their cyber offensive skills in the process. Hack The Box has had two UNI CTFs so far. Read all about UNI CTF 2020 on our blog. On that note, you should know that our UNI CTF 2021 is coming up very soon. Please follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter for updates about the event and when you can register your school to participate.