PicoCTF 2022 – My first official CTF experience.

With picoCTF 2022 coming to a close (in 6 hours as of writing), I believe it’s time to look back at my first time participating in a live competition.

My thoughts

Nothing motivates you more than a deadline. Even though I never found myself hankering for time, there is just something about a number counting down that makes you want to work, work, work. The sense of urgency helped me persevere when dealing with difficult problems in a way that I just don’t get when doing picoGym challenges.

As for the challenges themselves, most of them, in my opinion as someone relatively new to all this, were quite enjoyable and satisfying to solve. A few felt, however, definitely could have been streamlined. The challenge File types, in particular, felt like a slog to solve. Not particularly difficult, just tedious.

Some of the challenges really forced me out of my comfort zone and got me to use tools that I previously found way too intimidating, such as gdb or ghidra. But that’s the whole point of playing CTF for me, learning new skills and seeing what I can break using said skills.

All that being said, this was a valuable experience for me as a beginner CTF player, and I can’t wait to get involved in more CTF events in the future.

The results

My scoreboard for picoCTF 2022

Overall, although the event lasted 2 weeks, I spent only less than one on the competition, mostly at the beginning and the end. That being said, I didn’t feel pressured for time and managed to solve all the challenges within my capabilities before the deadline.

The score spread reflects quite accurately how I view my own current skillset, with Binary Exploitation being my greatest weakness. On the bright side, this experience will definitely help motivate me to learn and experiment more with binaries exploitation, both for future competitions and to scratch the itch that those unfinished challenges leave me.

Next up

In the coming days, I will be posting write-ups for most of the challenges I completed this time around (some are perhaps too straightforward to warrant an individual write-up).

Aside from writing my own, I’m also excitedly waiting to read others’ write-ups. It will definitely be interesting to see how others have tackled the same challenge differently, as I’m sure I’ve solved some problems in less-than-elegant ways. The same goes for challenges I didn’t manage to overcome this time, some of which I felt were just barely beyond my reach, such as the challenge Keygenme.

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