Is computer hacking a sport? Should it be rewarded with trophies, awards, and maybe even, jobs? A growing trend points to yes.
What used to be a frowned upon and shady underworld of computer hackers is now emerging as a network of professionals that boasts teamwork and helps provide insight into the world of cyber security.
Bringing computer hacking out of the shadows and into the mainstream, multiple companies from app developers, security firms, and even the federal government have embraced.
Many of these companies are hiring the folks they once considered a security threat, in an attempt to mine their experience and data to improve their own web privacy initiatives, as was the case when the Federal Trade Commission hired well known hacker Chris Soghoian in 2009.
As this group of professional hackers becomes more accepted in the mainstream, mini competitions are spawned from the various conferences and meetings.
Most of the time, the hacker’s main mission is to hack inside of a game or website. There is no regard for rules or game play, instead the only goal was only to hack the system, therefore beating developers and of course, "the man."
This gave Bryan Fite (codename: Angus Blitter) an idea. Why not develop a legitimate hacking game that would test a hacker’s skills and knowledge while functioning within a set of game rules. His thought was to eliminate the shadiness and rule breaking nature of these hackers, and instead truly test their skill in a fun and innovative way.
Like an entrepreneur might compete in a business plan, or an athlete in sport, there is now a home for what was once and underground world of disjointed hackers: PacketWars.
The intense hacking competition was originally designed to bring hackers together to both educate and professional develop its participants. What it turned into is a the very first cyber sport that as a by-product offers education.
PacketWars is described by its founders as "an intense, real-time information warfare simulation. Unlike other "capture the flag" games, the battlegrounds featured in PacketWars use the same software and hardware you would encounter in the real world.
In short, PacketWars is designed to operate like a sport.
The series of battles put players head-to-head in a battle of wits and while providing rules and even game commentary.
The first reconnaissance style assignment is to visit various sites and gather as much specific information about the sites as possible (like operating system, running services, vulnerabilities etc). The team that accurately attributes the most specifications to the most sites wins.
The second mission is the "King of the Hill" battle, a fight that takes place within a specified address or kill zone.
Once hackers penetrate the external forces, they go head-to-head within the battle space to attack internal assets and each other. "'King of the Hill' is pure carnage!" explains Fite.
Fite’s goal is to support hacker for sport, for fun, and for education, rather than for harm. By creating a hacking network where players work together in a team under particular guidelines, he’s promoting teamwork and camaraderie that is a bragging point rather than a shady hobby.
"We have players who work in government or law enforcement roles," he says. "I know of several people who have referenced their involvement with PacketWars on their CV's and still got hired. I like to think it is viewed as a positive indication of a candidates experience."
Through this cyber sport hackers are able to channel their skills for good and fun rather than shady purposes. The byproduct? Educational value for companies and the government alike...even if the educators are wearing grungy t-shirts hooded sweatshirts.