SANS Opens Free Holiday Hack Challenge

An American non-profit cybersecurity training and IT company is inviting cybersecurity fans everywhere to boost their skills by taking part in a free festive hacking competition. 

Competitors participating in the SANS Institute's 2021 Holiday Hack Challenge must battle cyber-villains including Jack Frost to help Santa Claus save the holiday season. 

Over a series of online games ranging in difficulty level from beginner right up to serious expert, players must come to the aid of the white-bearded legend, his elven helpers, and those old pals of the fruit tree-dwelling partridge, the Four Calling Birds.

Play takes place in the North Pole at Santa's castle and includes a blend of cybersecurity topics that cover digital forensics, incident response, and cloud security.

The annual online challenge, which was launched for the very first time nearly two decades ago, is open to players of every skill level and in any geographical location. 

Last year's challenge drew more than 19,000 participants, including cybersecurity professionals and students. 

"We are excited to present the 2021 SANS Holiday Hack Challenge, our annual gift to the cybersecurity community since 2002," said Ed Skoudis, president of SANS Technology Institute, and SANS chief holiday officer. 

"Jack Frost is back this year – he barely escaped justice on a technicality in 2020 – and so we need everyone's help to thwart Jack's nefarious plot."

Players could come away from the challenge with more than a festive feeling and improved cyber-skills. One talented competitor will be awarded a grand prize in the form of a free SANS online training course, while several additional players will receive cybersecurity goodies.

"The SANS Holiday Hack Challenge is a series of challenges that you can use to develop your cybersecurity skills, featuring a mix of cyber defense, offense, digital forensics, incident response, blue team, cloud security, and more," said Skoudis.

"All of the elements combine to create an interactive, social, video-game aspect where players can work together in a virtual world to solve challenges and explore the North Pole. And a bonus for players is the soundtrack featuring some great custom holiday hacking music for you to enjoy while you play."

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