To hack a US Air Force satellite and use it to take a picture of the moon: Well, that would generally cause a lot of trouble. But some students from the Ruhr-University of Bochum won a prize for this action. As part of the ensemble "FluxRepeatRocket," they won third place in the final of the US Air Force "Hack-A-Sat" competition this weekend. They received total prize money of 35,000 US dollars. The team consists of students* and researchers* of the Ruhr-Uni Bochum (Team Fluxfingers), the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg, the RWTH and the FH Aachen. The "Hack-A-Sat" is a Capture-the-Flag (CTF), in other words, a hacking game, in which the participants have to solve tasks from computer security and other fields to succeed. Under normal circumstances, the event should have taken place within the framework of the hacker conference "Defcon" in Las Vegas, but due to corona, it was held online.
Competing against 1200 other teams
In the qualification round in May of this year, FluxRepeatRocket had prevailed against 1200 other teams - only eight groups in total made it to the final round. For the final, the organizer had sent the participants* the technical equipment they needed for the solution one week before the event. It was a miniature model (FlatSat) of the satellite, intended to be used to analyze and test the system first. During the second part of the competition, the teams had to use a self-written code to access a real satellite in orbit to change its orientation so that the integrated camera could take a picture of the moon.
Success despite delivery problems
However, due to delivery problems with the courier service, the German team received the equipment only three hours before the Capture-The-Flag was due to start. Even with this shortcoming and the spatial distance, they were able to secure one of the top places.
The Fluxfingers are the official CTF team of the RUB and regularly take part in competitions like the "Hack-A-Sat." With the project "FluxRookies," they offer beginner's challenges for everyone interested in CTFs. More information at fluxfingers.net.