ZeroDays CTF 2024

Blog by Mark Lane, ZeroDays

Saturday 23rd March saw the latest edition of #ZeroDaysCTF take place at Croke Park in Dublin. 130 teams took part in what is the largest on-site capture-the-flag event in the world! Participants competed across three categories: Irish Colleges, Cyber Schools and the Open/Industry category, which was sponsored by Cyber Ireland. 

We have seen huge growth in interest and participation in this event over the years. Since it’s humble beginnings in 2015, in Generator Dublin, with 22 teams, the event has grown every year.  

This was the biggest CTF run by ZeroDays so far, with around 500 competitors taking part, and the fantastic Hogan and Canal Suites provided stunning views of the Croke Park pitch in what is effectively the all-Ireland of cybersecurity challenges.  

This year’s theme was “Myths, Legends and Fairytales” and costumes were encouraged to add to the fun vibes. To encourage people to costume up, we made some of the challenges available only to teams in costume. Evil? Us? 

Hosting an event of this size is a massive undertaking, and planning started back in October 2023. We have a core team of six, and on the day we have a much bigger team of people helping us run the help desk, manage the sponsors, manage the participants, host the livestream, manage the video, photography, sounds, audio, various physical challenges such as escape room, VR games and many other jobs. A massive thanks to them all. It’s a proper team effort, and that effort made this years the biggest, and the smoothest so far! 

This event has become an important one in the cybersecurity ecosystem in Ireland. Weve seen schools participants go on to choose cybersecurity on the CAO after participating, and we’ve seen those same schools participants come back later as college participants. So many of those college teams go on to work for the sponsor companies, and it’s great to see many of them hosting the company stalls at the event itself. 

The CTF really does provide a platform firstly to learn new, real-world, hand-on skills, and also to showcase those skills to industry. The CTF also provides a pathway from schools, to colleges to industry, but also to the Irish CTF team competing internationally. Indeed some of the Irish CTF team players and coaches were heavily involved in organising this year’s event, including the current team captain Cillian Collins, and former captains, now coaches, Emmet Leahy and Daniel Cahill.  

We’ve had great support from our sponsors and partners and this year was no different with our largest array of sponsors to date. I’d like to thank all of our sponsors including our Diamond sponsor ReliaQuest, Platinum Sponsors Edgescan, Ekco, State Street and the NCSC, our schools’ sponsors SFI/Cyber Skills and TU Dublin, and all our other sponsors including Workday, Fortify Institute, EC-Council, Amazon Security, Bank of America, BH Consulting, CommSec, zSecurity and of course our Industry Partners Cyber Ireland. It genuinely wouldn’t be possible to continue to grow this event without their vision and support.  

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