[FEATURED NEWS] Mission Accomplished: HTX's Inaugural Investigators' Challenge

HTXIC Control Room cover

On 20th December 2021, HTX launched her first-ever HTX Investigators’ Challenge, which took place in a three-dimensional gamified world. Participants came together to help uncover and stop a terror attack as they competed in over 50 Capture-the-Flag (CTF) challenges that encapsulate the work that HTX’s scientists and engineers do to keep Singapore safe and secure.

Unlike traditional CTF competitions that are mainly focused on cybersecurity skills, HTX Investigators’ Challenge is multi-disciplinary and includes other domains such as Chemical, Biological, Radiological Nuclear and Explosives (CBRNE), forensics, robotics, biometric and profiling. This reflects the diverse science, engineering and digital developments undertaken by HTX’s officers and allows participants a chance to experience what some of HTX’s scientists or engineers do behind the scenes.

“Challenging participants with an entire spectrum of science and technology disciplines enables them to have an intimate understanding of the key role technology plays in the diverse range of work within our Home Team Departments,” said Co-Chairman of HTXIC Cheng Wee Kiang, who is also the Director of Robotics, Automation & Unmanned Systems Centre of Expertise (RAUS CoE).

Attracting more than 1,400 students from Junior Colleges, Institutes of Technical Education (ITE), Polytechnics and Universities as well as fresh graduates from Institutes of Higher Learning, the Challenge eventually saw 500 participants in 118 teams (each team is made up of three to five persons) race against the clock to win a top prize of S$10,000.

Immersed in a customised interactive gaming platform, participants created their avatars and navigated through the three-dimensional gamified world to trigger challengers within the gaming platform. Physical challenges are also set up onsite and live-streamed to participants so they can see the effects of their successful exploits. “Gamifying the Capture-the-Flag experience allows us to create a fun and engaging environment for participants to learn about the science and tech ecosystem of homeland security,” explained Co-Chairman of HTXIC Lee Kok Thong, who is also the Director of Cybersecurity CoE.

Participants were not the only ones in the three-dimensional realm – Second Minister for Home Affairs Mrs Josephine Teo was in the virtual world to officiate the challenge and introduce the different gamified worlds to participants. “If you are thrilled by today's challenge and find satisfaction contributing to keep Singapore safe and secure, perhaps you will be interested in career opportunities with HTX in the future,” said Minister Teo in her opening speech.

The top three teams at the end of the Challenge will receive cash prizes. Points were awarded through dynamic scoring, which automatically reduces the points of each challenge as the number of flags that were successfully taken increases. In other words, the fastest teams to get the first flag for each challenge will win the most points. Four other teams will receive awards for special achievements, namely the eXcellence Award, eXpeditious Award, eXploiter Award and eXaminer Award. The final winners will be decided after the top teams pass an interview with a panel of judges to determine that their points were won fairly.

HTX worked with Cloudsine, Hologrix and Infinito Games for this Challenge.

The Plot

In a fictional storyline where the remaining members of the terrorist group seek revenge against the Singapore government, participants were tasked with the mission to uncover the terrorist plot and stay ahead of the perpetrators to stop the attack. They solved challenges in three gamified worlds to ensure Singapore remains safe and secure.

These three worlds are:

  • HTX office – The Singapore Prison Service website had been defaced and the terrorist group demanded the release of their leader, who was in jail. Participants had to apply their skills in Cybersecurity, Data Science, and Sense-making and Surveillance to investigate this. 

Office with UI

  • F1 grandstand – Against the backdrop of the Singapore Grand Prix, HTX uncovered a planned bomb attack after investigating the defaced website. One of the highlights of this world was the Drone Hacking Challenge, which had a physical set-up at the HTX office. As participants attempted to hack the drone remotely, they were able to see the real-time movements through a livestream video. For teams that successfully hacked the drone, they were rewarded with the sight of the drone being landed safely. Participants also got their hands dirty with the Fingerprint Dusting Challenge, as they dusted for fingerprints on the drone propellers and matched an unknown print to find the suspect.

F1 with UI

  • HDB flat – The terrorists’ hideout was revealed from the bomb seized at the F1 grandstand, and participants moved into the terrorists’ hideout and sought to find out how the terrorists are making explosives, how they communicate with each other and the identities of the remaining members of the group. 

Hideout with UI

The intricate plot, multi-disciplinary challenges and immersive environment combined into a heady cocktail that gave participants a flavour of the work done by HTX officers on a daily basis. 

“I think the diverse challenges created for us in the HTX Investigators’ Challenge were very unique and exposed me to understand more about homeland security too. For example, there was a CBRNE challenge where I had to decode the chemicals used in the terrorists’ bomb. I could tell that a lot of effort was put into gamifying HTXIC and showcasing the reality of HTX. It was a great experience!” said 24-year-old participant Jaryl Loh, a Computer Science undergraduate at the National University of Singapore.