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Interview: Behind the scenes with Magdalena simidzioski

by Cybersprint 3 Feb 2021

The publications issued by the Hâck The Hague team are mostly dealing with used scripts, new tools, tips & tricks, and do’s and don’ts, because that’s what hackers want: to learn from each other. However, there’s many interesting things happening behind the scenes of this yearly event. Some of which might even give you insights that you can use to your advantage! That’s why we are having a virtual coffee with Magdalena Simidzioski, Security Specialist at the municipality of The Hague.

She takes us backstage to the control room of Hâck The Hague (HTH), where a number of her colleagues monitor the hackers’ activities using some crucial dashboards. According to Magdalena, women have a lot to bring to the table in any technical industry and HTH in particularly is an event female ethical hackers should attend.

Control room

“During HTH, hacker activity is being monitored continuously through a number of dashboards in different locations. These dashboards have been built specifically for the occasion and are improved based on the learnings of each past event. “The first location is the control room where a team of employees monitor the performance of the systems of the municipality on a daily basis. At the day of the HTH event, 10 IT specialists are present and the levels of stress and excitement are of course slightly higher than on a regular day. The crew responsible for ensuring the uptime of the IT infrastructure and its various applications is even more vigilant to spot any irregularities. They monitor the performance of the network, what individual hackers are doing, and check whether they are only hacking systems that are open to the competition or not. Illegal activity is to be avoided at any time as that might interfere with the services the citizens of the city of The Hague are counting on.”


Excitement in the air

“The second part of the control room, are the people like myself who are present on the floor and use other dashboards to see for example what tools hackers are using, which systems are ‘under attack’ and of course what potential security vulnerabilities are being brought to the surface! Next year (2021) I will be attending HTH for the third time and I love it! So many cyber security specialists in one place focussing on their laptop screens, working on clever attacks of real and live systems, how cool is that?! I do a bit of hacking myself in my spare time and feel the excitement when creative hacks are being performed. Also because this means that the digital infrastructure of the municipality of The Hague will become even more robust in the future. managed to do this; then I needed to get a shell on the system. Naturally, the shell was discussed with the owner of the internet exchange. I could have done a lot of damage with it if I had any malicious intent.”


Monitoring

“I’ve mentioned a number of times that we use dashboards to help us control the activity during HTH. But what do these dashboards look like? The picture below shows the public dashboard that is visible to both hackers and the spectators at
the event. It shows incoming and outgoing traffic, which ports are being used the most and the flow of traffic between hackers and the network. Obviously, the information on the dashboard changes constantly during the event.“


Female Touch

“Even at a young age, I was drawn to computers – not as bad as youngsters that start programming at primary school, but interested enough to get a bachelor’s degree at the Technical University of Delft. I was one of the few female students who
chose this direction, so yes; women were definitely a minority. That’s a shame, because I think women have a lot to bring to the table in the area of cyber security. For example, because we tend to have a different way of perceiving situations and focus on a broader scope, not just the technical aspects of security. We might be more inclined to focus on more elements that play a role in the defence of our digital world. Take for example what is being done about the awareness of cyber security. Can we do more? Are we paying enough attention to risk management etc.? For some reason technical jobs are not very appealing to women, which is a shame because there is nothing wrong with our analytical abilities!

“If you are into ethical hacking, Hack The Hague is a great event to participate in, whether you are a man or a woman. It’s a very open, transparent and well-organized event where you quickly feel at ease. Are you an ethical hacker and would you like to join HTH 2021? Don’t hesitate any longer and register today. If only to inspire other women to follow your example and join future HTH events.”

Hâck The Hague 2021 in the media

An awesome event like Hâck The Hague is bound to grab attention in the media. How many municipalities and organisations voluntarily allow their systems to be hacked? Not that many, and definitely not by 200 hackers at the same time! From interviews with hackers, to articles about the competition. We have summarised the most remarkable coverage for you in this blog post. 

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Hâck The Hague 2021 Press Release

The Hague, 27 September 2021 – Today the digital infrastructure of the municipality of The Hague was scrutinised by 206 ethical national and international hackers. Among the 125 reported vulnerabilities were; unsafe access to accounts, outdated software, the ability to inject malicious code into a website and an account that could be taken over completely.

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Hâck The Hague programme: sneak preview

We have planned an exciting programme for Hâck The Hague that will air on 27 September. Expect fun podcasts and videos about cybersecurity in all shapes and sizes. We tested citizens of The Hague on their knowledge of cybersecurity and held exclusive interviews with both professional and student hackers. What will they share? Here's a sneak peak. 

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