Taesoo Kim is building a new team, and their color is gray. The assistant professor of Computer Science has just become faculty advisor of Georgia Tech's Club and he’s preparing them to capture flags all over cyberspace.
The Grey H@t Club is Georgia Tech’s student hacking organization, which competes much like a basketball team in organized capture-the-flag (CTF) contests with a mix of “white hat hackers,” who are cybersecurity defensive players guarding the hoop, and “black hat hackers,” who can break through a full court press to get protected data.
“Online, we are at war,” said Kim.
With the rise of the “Internet of Things” and people’s ever growing dependency on the Internet, information is becoming more accessible and more vulnerable to attack. The battlefield in this cyberwar is widening, creating new blind spots that need be defended.
“Unlike the real world, cyberspace is quite vulnerable,” says Kim. The barriers that protect people in the real world do not exist in the cyberspace. In the cyberworld, “a lot of people can do ugly stuff” that is “hard to prevent,” he explains. Cyberspace is the new Wild West and “we need cybersecurity professionals to create the rules” for this new world, he continues.
As the new advisor for the Grey H@t Club, Kim’s goal is to help develop the club in the next wave of cybersecurity defenders by helping them become “Grey H@t” hackers, a balance between the white hats (those with good intent) and black hats (those who understand exactly how malicious actors operate).
Kim will help the club prepare for various CTF events across the country, like the Boston Key Party in Boston that the team just returned from on March 6.
Many people have vague and incomplete definitions of hackers, Kim explains.
“[People] think of ‘black hat’ [hackers] as criminals and ‘white hat’ [hackers] as the good guys, but in reality, that is not the case,” he explains. The hacking community views black hat and white hat hackers like two basketball teams, he says. The black hat hackers are a run-and-gun offensive team while the white hat hackers are a defensively oppressive. Grey H@t hackers are a balanced team with strong defense and offense.
“Learning Grey H@t hacking teaches the club members both sides of hacking,” he says. These CTF events are “very applicable” to the battle they will face in the real world.
The Grey H@t Club is planning to host their own CTF event later this year, and will release details as they emerge. Students interested in join the Grey H@t Club should contact Club President Jason Bires (firstname.lastname@example.org) for details on how to join.