My earliest memory of gaming was back in 2000 when I got my first console for my eighth birthday. It was the smaller, redesigned PS One with a Dualshock Analog Controller and a 1 MB Memory Card.
Since then, gaming has become more and more accessible to everyone. Nowadays, multiple free-to-play games can entertain players without spending actual money on them. And not only that: now everything is gamified.
Your money-saving app will have some gamified elements, making saving fun. Your Goodreads yearly challenge will follow a gamified approach to encourage you to read more books. Duolingo makes learning foreign languages a competition. To make cybersecurity upskilling fun and accessible to everyone, we also use gamification to facilitate the learning experience of our community at Hack The Box (HTB).
This cybersecurity training philosophy of combining hacking and gaming led to the creation of Hacking Battlegrounds (aka HBG), as well as other gamified cybersecurity training approaches enjoyed by thousands of HTB users. That's why we're extremely excited to share that since launching in October 2020, we've now reached the milestone of 10,000 battles!
Let’s be clear: gamification is not new to cybersecurity. Hackers have played Capture The Flag (CTF) competitions since 1993. “CTF” also became gaming jargon used in major video game franchises. Yes, Call of Duty, I am looking at you.
How is Hacking Battlegrounds different, then? HBG is a system of intense, real-time multiplayer hacking games in the form of timed battles. Players can simply join the lobby, choose a game mode, form a team (or play one vs. one), and experience the battlefield.
As you can understand from this quick overview, Hacking Battlegrounds has been shaped by multiple gamification elements that even casual gamers can find in their favorite franchises. (The HTB team is full of passionate gamers who started the early development of HBG back in 2020; we're still on the lookout for more passionate people to join us. )
Haris Pylarinos (aka ch4p), Founder and CEO of Hack The Box, is crazy about League of Legends (LoL) and was the initial architect behind Hacking Battlegrounds. Naturally, his favorite elements from the famous online multiplayer game found their way into HBG. For example, in Cyber Mayhem (one of the two HBG game modes), teams must secure their own machines while trying to attack the opposing squad.
Like LoL, this game mode demands perfect teamwork and a well-balanced set of skills between teammates. To win, defensive and offensive efforts must be distributed perfectly.
Similar to LoL, Dota contains teamwork elements. This strategy game developed by Valve, though, features a very important element that every player on Hacking Battlegrounds needs to possess, too: patience. While LoL has a more fast-paced approach, Dota offers a distinct game experience that requires more work on strategy rather than pure action. Similarly, Hacking Battlegrounds is designed to combine thrilling action and thought behind hacking machines.
Worms is a British series of tactical artillery video games mixing large maps, teamwork, and combined arms warfare. Similar to Worms, Hacking Battlegrounds requires stellar teamwork to be successful, but this is not the only similarity: the fully deformable landscape that can be radically altered by using weapons in Worms reflect the scenarios players are facing on HBG Machines. Often, players are required to scrap their plans and adopt new strategies to cope with changes and find the right path to get the flag.
Battlefield is a series of first-person shooter (FPS) video games published by Electronic Arts. The massive, fully destructible maps in the early editions were game-changing and truly made you feel the intense heat of a simulated battle. We had to capture that same level of immersion with HBG. By incorporating elements like a voice assistant, battle log, and team chat, HBG players can strategize and coordinate just like in a traditional FPS game. It's probably the closest you'll ever get to experiencing chaos of a real cyber war.
Ready for battle? Hacking Battlegrounds recreates the fun of the above video games while also leveling up your cybersecurity skills. Remember: if you don’t feel ready to compete for the scoreboard, you can choose the Practice Battles mode and take it slow or watch some exciting gameplay by IppSec.
For hackers, Hacking Battlegrounds is a fun way to compete with each other and learn in the process. For gamers, it's a great way to grasp and practice hacking concepts. HBG is also an engaging way to upskill corporate cybersecurity teams with a purple team approach to practical training.
Hacking Battlegrounds machines are a demanding effort for our creators as they are developed in different ways based on the game modes. We try to avoid CVEs that are not fixed easily in order to promote the Blue Team gameplay, and we create write-ups for defensive gameplay for the same reason.
Corporate teams can organize Hacking Battlegrounds tournaments in private, dedicated environments and get a full attack/defense emulation with many attack scenarios like DDoS, malware infections, and pentesting simulations.
Author bio: Giacomo Bertollo (aka b3rt0ll0), Marketing Lead, Hack The Box
Giacomo - Jack, to make it easier - has been working in the marketing department of Hack The Box for over 2 years. Before that, he covered several roles in non-profit organizations, consulting firms, and media & press offices. He recently completed Tier 0 of Starting Point, which makes him obviously a new hacker in the making. Giacomo is also a passionate, yet n00b, gamer. This is making him really excited about the future of hacking in the esports industry. Feel free to connect with him on LinkedIn to have a chat about anything related to marketing and cybersecurity.