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Chinese team shows strength in int'l network security competition

LAS VEGAS, the United States, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- A Chinese team showed strength in the first ultimate showdown of man vs machine in network security, which was held here this weekend at the world's biggest top-level hacking conference DEF CON.

At this year's DEF CON's Capture the Flag (CTF) competition, widely considered as the "World Series of Hacking," top human hacker teams challenged not only each other, but the supercomputer system dubbed "Mayhem," which defeated all other machine opponents at the world's first all-machine hacking tournament, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)'s Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC), just days earlier.

During the "historic event," China's only qualified team b1o0ps, a combination of Blue Lotus and o0ps, defeated the defending champion, the South Korea-based DEFKOR and ultimately ranked second place in all teams with a slight score gap behind the U.S.-based PPP, which won its third title in four years. This is the highest ever placing of a Chinese cyber security team at the competition.

"The first computer engineering capture the flag," DEF CON announced at the closing ceremony on Sunday night. "At any point this weekend an autonomous computer system was beating our teams. The raw scores will be coming in the coming weeks and the exploit rules and catches that our team created."

According to DARPA, the engagement of autonomous systems in such a tournament aims to revolutionize software vulnerability detection and patching.

It is "the first-ever inclusion of a mechanical contestant in that event, and could presage the day when, as eventually happened with chess and Jeopardy!, a computer proves to be the Grand Master of cyber defense," the research wing of the U.S. military said in a statement.

CTF is one of the most popular hacking competitions in the world. The head-to-head, networked competition is a race to find, diagnose and fix software flaws in real time in an adversarial environment. At the end of the game, the competitor with the most points wins.

Among all such competitions worldwide, DEF CON's hallmark CTF brings together teams of some of the best hackers in the world to compete. Fifteen teams representing at least 10 countries qualified for this year's contest.

"Just in the past few years, we have seen an exponential increase in both quality and quantity in cyber security research from China at both top academic and industrial conferences," Kang Li, the founder of Disket, one of the seven DARPA CGC finalist teams and professor of Computer Science at the University of Georgia, told Xinhua.

Li has played CTF and attended DEF CON for about 15 years. "As a senior DEF CON goer and a pioneer of CTF players, I am happy to see the hacking spirit spreading to the world," he said.

The number of Chinese netizens has now soared to 668 million. With the largest group of Internet users in the world, China is facing an increasing amount of cyber security challenges as well. The fast-growing mobile app market has seen a boom in malicious cyber attacks, online malware and security breaches.

Over the past couple of years, China's cyber security experts have been frequent speakers at the annual world hacking conventions BlackHat and DEF CON, which attract prominent cyber security experts and hackers from all over the world and even officials from the U.S. government.

Before this year's DEF CON CTF competition, Chinese search engine giant Baidu even brought a drones formation performance to show respect for the two top-level world hacking conventions, held in Las Vegas from July 30 to Aug. 7.

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