Stripe Launches Capture the Flag 3

Eric Carter, January 23rd, 2014

StripeYesterday, Stripe launched its third version of Capture the Flag (CTF3). The first two editions of CTF were purely focused on security issues that developers face in the real world. Stripe has expanded the scope this time around. PW caught up to Stripe Engineer and CTF co-founder, Siddarth Chandrasekaran, to learn more about CTF.

First, Chandrasekaran, gave us an overview of CTF’s history and the current event:

“CTF is an opportunity for engineers to tackle some of the most high stakes problems they may face in the real world, but aren’t taught in any classrooms today because they scale at which they occur is so huge. They’re problems the majority of developers have probably only ever read about, and can be reserved for pretty elite teams inside of companies, but are becoming increasingly common and important.”

CTF is a virtual event; however, to wind down CTF3, participants can attend a wrap up event in London or San Francisco. Stripe is also aware of end of event parties organized by participants in Dallas and other cities. The contest lasts for a week, concluding on January 29th. Regarding the target audience and how Stripe attracts participants,  Chandrasekaran explained:

“We don’t advertise CTF…it somehow has a bit of a cult following. I think it’s due to the fact that for even the most-respected engineers and tech companies like Google and Facebook, writing performant, secure code at huge scales is a constant challenge. Even small updates to a product or site act as foundations that others are built upon, which can cost an organization considerable time and functionality down the road if they are not well-written.”

Nearly 5,000 participants have registered for CTF3. Although the majority of the registrants are based in the US or UK, CTF3 enjoys participants from all over the planet, including Thailand, Ecuador, Hong Kong, Philippines and Iceland. Chandrasekaran explained that the target audience consists of developers at all levels. Further, he explained the challenge itself:

“There are no rules, per se, but there are five levels, each with a unique challenge. The engineers that solve the challenge in the best way, win.”

When it comes to measuring the success of CTF3, Chandrasekaran suggested:

“For us it’s all about sharing a bit of what we’ve learned building these huge scale systems ourselves at Stripe….Every company today deals with the same exact problem; the lack of transferability of skills between a computer science degree to real world software engineering. The goal of CTF is fix exactly that.”

To learn more about CTF3 or to participate, visit the CTF3 site.

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