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Embedded CTF Prepares Record Field of Future STEM Workforce

More than 700 students from 95 institutions participated in the competition, supported by NEMC Hub grant through the Department of Defense Microelectronics Commons Program.

McLean, Va., and Bedford, Mass., April 30, 2024

MITRE’s 2024 Embedded Capture the Flag (eCTF) competition concluded this past week, marked by an awards ceremony held at JFK Library. The awards ceremony, sponsored by Fortinet, provided an opportunity for the top student competitors to share their accomplishments, meet participants from other schools, and interact with MITRE and eCTF partners and sponsors.

CHIPS and Science Act Grant Invests in Future STEM Workforce

Investing in the future STEM workforce ensures a pipeline of skilled professionals equipped to tackle emerging technological frontiers. In January, the Massachusetts Healey-Driscoll Administration announced $1.5 million of a total $9.2 million in investments made by the Northeast Microelectronics Coalition (NEMC) Hub to workforce development, education, and student engagement.

The Hub is a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MassTech). The collaborative was established with federal CHIPS and Science Act funding under the Microelectronics Commons program and executed through the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division and the National Security Technology Accelerator (NSTXL). NEMC grant funding was allocated to four distinct programs and initiatives that “aim to expand engagement to students across the northeast region.” eCTF received $750,000 of the allotted $1.5 million for their efforts to build a strong cyber workforce.

“Providing hands-on experiences to attract and educate the future cybersecurity workforce helps ensure U.S. microelectronics competitiveness in critical areas including secure embedded systems,” said Mark Halfman, director, NEMC Hub. “The eCTF competition demonstrates a commitment to important investments in our nation’s future workforce. We are excited by MITRE’s membership in the NEMC Hub and are pleased to support their dedication to preparing young talent with the skills they need to take on these new, innovative opportunities.”

“As our nation works to address critical STEM workforce shortages and grow tech talent, MITRE is proud to be part of the solution,” said Laurie Giandomenico, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief acceleration officer, MITRE. “The United States is making historic investments to secure global leadership in microelectronics and semiconductors, and scalable programs like MITRE’s Embedded Capture the Flag competition can help attract and train a diverse workforce essential to the development of secure microelectronics systems and supply chains.”

Competition Unlike Any other

MITRE’s eCTF develops practical skills for securing critical embedded systems, such as uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV), smart grids, and medical devices. The realistic competition balances offense and defense practices not found in standard attack-only CTFs. Sponsoring companies have an opportunity to connect with emerging cybersecurity experts, giving them early access to tomorrow’s industry leaders.

“At Fortinet, we’re committed to addressing the skills shortage by developing the workforce of the future through initiatives like this one,” said Rob Rashotte, vice president, Fortinet Training Institute and Global Field Enablement. “We’re thrilled to once again support MITRE’s eCTF as a way to help develop critical security skills that help build the next generation of security professionals and potentially help attract new entrants to the cyber workforce.”

A record-breaking 773 students from 95 different institutions participated in this year’s competition. Teams were challenged to design and implement a supply chain security solution for microcontrollers on a medical device. The system had to securely verify the device integrity while keeping sensitive data confidential.

The 2024 eCTF Winners:

  • First place overall, winning $10,000 — Carnegie Mellon University
  • Second place overall, winning $5,000 — University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Third place overall, winning $2,500 — Purdue University

Additional Awards:

  • Top High School, Delaware Area Career Center, $2,500
  • Best Poster, Purdue University, $2,500
  • Responsible Disclosure, Carnegie Mellon University, $2,500

“Year after year, the MITRE eCTF competition raises the bar for cybersecurity excellence, and this year’s event showcased the most intense competition yet,” said Maverick Woo, student advisor and project scientist, CyLab, Carnegie Mellon University. “Many top teams demonstrated a remarkable maturity in their technical skills, which speaks volumes about the value and impact of the eCTF experience.”

Learn more about the Embedded Capture the Flag annual competition.

About MITRE

MITRE’s mission-driven teams are dedicated to solving problems for a safer world. Through our public-private partnerships and federally funded R&D centers, we work across government and in partnership with industry to tackle challenges to the safety, stability, and well-being of our nation.

About MITRE Engenuity

MITRE Engenuity, a subsidiary of MITRE, is a tech foundation for the public good. MITRE Engenuity brings MITRE’s deep technical know-how and systems thinking to the private sector to solve complex challenges that government alone cannot solve. MITRE Engenuity catalyzes the collective R&D strength of the broader U.S. federal government, academia, and private sector to tackle national and global challenges, such as protecting critical infrastructure, creating a resilient semiconductor ecosystem, building a genomics center for public good, accelerating use case innovation in 5G, and democratizing threat-informed cyber defense.

Media: Sarah Lytle, media@mitre.org