SELECT developers FROM Bazaarvoice UNION SELECT flags FROM Stripe_CTF;

Stripe ( held their second capture the flag event, this time the CTF was dedicated to web-based vulnerabilities and exploits. As a new Security Engineer here at BV the timing of this was perfect. It allowed me to use it as a vehicle for awareness and to ramp up curiosity, interest and even excitement for web application security (webappsec).

Let’s start with some definitions to get us all on the same page.

Capture the flag is a traditional outdoor game where two teams each have a flag and the objective is to capture the other team’s flag, located at the team’s base. In computer security the flag is a piece of data stored somewhere on a vulnerable computer and the goal is to use tools and know how to “hack” the machine to find the flag.

Webappsec is the acronym for Web Application Security a branch of Information Security that deals specifically with security of websites and web applications. In my opinion there is more to it than just that. As we see from the OWASP Top 10 ( and the emerging DevOps movement, web developers are doing more than just coding. They are now configuring full stacks to support their applications. So, webappsec needs to encompass more than just the application. It has to deal with developer and management education, configuration management, networking security, OS hardening, just to name a few areas, and of course not to forget the code.

Now that we know what CTF and webappsec are lets move on to the details of the event.

The CTF started on Wednesday, August 22nd, 2PM CDT today at 2PM CDT and ran for a week until Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 2PM CDT. One week == Seven Days == 168 hours and, for me at least, this was not enough. This capture the flag included 9 levels (0-8) to conquer before arriving at the actual flag. Each level was progressively more difficult and when completed provided you with the password for the next level.

The CTF was very challenging, yet no security specific training/knowledge was needed in order to participate. In my opinion the minimum requirements to participate and find it fun and enjoyable was some knowledge of web application programming and a willingness to learn and research possible vulnerabilities and potential exploits.

In total about 15 or so Bazaarvoice cohorts tried their hand at the CTF. Four actually captured the flag! When did they have the time? Well, we used our 20% time while at work and personal time when away from work. Late nights, lunch hours, weekend, etc.…believe me once you get started you are hooked. You end up thinking about it all day. You think about the level you are on, how to solve it and whether the previous levels offer up any hints or possible staging areas for potential exploits. If you are anything like me, first a developer at heart then a security professional, this type of activity is a great way to test out your chops and have some fun while learning new things and potentially bringing some of the lessons back to your teams. This is the perfect avenue for awareness – code wins after all!

Here are quotes from some of the BV participants:

I got to 8 last night. I don’t think I’ll get it in the next 4 hours, but it was a fun challenge. – Cory

Made it to level 8 last night, but not until after midnight. Don’t think I’ll be finishing, but it was fun all the same. Level 8 is really interesting, and I look forward to hearing how folks finished it. – RC

I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. – Jeremy

Overall everyone that tried it had a good time with it no matter how far they actually got.

All in all a total of four BVers completed the CTF and captured the final flag!


Congratulations to the following BVers for successfully capturing the flag:



For their last CTF Stripe made available the solutions and a working VM with each level. I hope they do the same for this one; this will give everyone the opportunity to learn and see what vulnerabilities were found and how they were exploited in order to complete each level and eventually capture the flag.

For now I leave you with a quote which I think embodies web application security, its education and use in the development community:

Secure programming is a mind-set. It may start with a week or two of training, but it will require constant reinforcement. – Karl Keller, President of IS Power

As with many things here at Bazaarvoice, the education and growth of our developers and their skills often take on a fun and enjoyable approach.