Wow. It has been quite some time since my last update here.
I might aswell start using this place a little bit more often…

Today’s topic will be about: Hacker challenges(the puzzle-kind).

Back in 2001, there was a website which intrigued me, made me look up all kinds of information on the internet and had a strong community: (just back online after years)

This is where it all began, what made me go into IT, what made me such a security-freak.
It had a whole ranking system, a board/forum for each rank, increasingly getting more permissions with each rank increase, which initially could be done by beating the challenge for that rank in Zebulun.

With each increase in rank it would give you permission to view boards below you, even moderate posts at lower levels and it would gain you respect. You’d start out with a simple JavaScript challenge, talking to a bot (Eliza! I still hate you!) with responses piped to an IRC-channel for the giggles of those who already had beaten it, steganography, exploits, to even getting root in a box.

I’ll never forget the excitement I felt when I finally progressed to “LtKer” and the accompanying bragging rights.

Hackerchallenge-sites shot out of the ground with Cyberarmy being the rolemodel (The Pyramid, SERS, Net-force, slyfx, Electrica, HackThisSite, theblacksheep, I could go on for a while) and even got bundled and rated on by Angela Byron (aka Snarkles) snarkles ( Angela was well-known throughout whole the (whitehat)hackercommunity and you should know her: she’s one of the co-maintainers of Drupal!

What made all these sites so succesful?
* Different kinds of areas on which to puzzle on (Programming, Cryptography, decompiling/reverse engineering, security holes, system-administration, Steganography, Mathematics, Cracking, Riddles).
* A stimulus to keep on going (ranking, levels, getting more permission, scores, bragging rights amongst peers, etc).
* Incrementing the complexity smoothly: Often a way in which the challenge stimulated into doing a lot of research before you could understand the problem, but also building on the blocks of stuff you learned before.
* A community in which us nerds could communicate through.
* Optionally: A storyline, allthough a lot of the good sites were basically a collection of challenges, some had a catchy stoyline.

All these sites made me curious, made me think out of the box, gave me hands-on experience on different programming-languages or -problems, taught me how to search for relevant information. I think it’s safe to say that these sites made me the developer as I am now.

Because most of us obviously registered on a lot of sites, there is a ‘The One Challenge Site To Rule Them All’, which is:

Here you can link all the challenge-sites to your user and see the progress you made. And of course bragging rights on a desolate idle IRC-channel.

For us old CA-ers: Please post your opinion on Eliza… I think even after 7 years it’s still starts to boil your blood ;).