HackPack, NC State’s student hacking and cybersecurity club, is welcoming new students, with or without hacking experience. The club focuses on ethical hacking and helping students understand cybersecurity concepts, as well as competing in competitions and games like Capture The Flag.
Dr. Alexandros Kapravelos, assistant professor of computer science, is the faculty advisor of HackPack.
“When we talk about ethical hacking here, we talk about basically hacking into systems that have been designed to be hacked,” Kapravelos said.
Another of HackPack's major focuses, according to the club’s student president, Dominic Brown, a fourth-year studying computer science, is to encourage independent study into computer science programs.
HackPack encourages students’ exploration of cybersecurity as is stated in its mission statement: “Our goal is to create a friendly environment where students can learn and practice security concepts free of judgement.”
According to Kapravelos, the club competes in capture the flag competitions.
“[We host] security competitions that have been designed to pretty much gamify hacking and provide a series of different security challenges where the students basically have to craft novel attacks against the systems, hack into them, gain some information, and gain points in the game,” Kapravelos said.
Any interested student can join HackPack; there are no fees and no need for a high-speed computer. However, to be able to participate in capture the flag events and other activities, students must have a working knowledge of computer science. This is why much of the club membership is made up of computer science students, however the club is not exclusive to computer science majors.
For students who are new to cybersecurity and ethical hacking, it will require independent self-study. Plenty of students, however, don’t even major in computer science or engineering. John Allison, for example, is the vice president of HackPack and is studying political science.
HackPack is a small club, but students partner with clubs at other universities like Texas A&M for activities and games.
“[It] was kind of a coincidence, so we have a few students, actually one student in particular, that went to Texas A&M for his undergraduate and is now a graduate student at NC State,” Brown said. “He had been in their Cybersecurity Club as an undergraduate, so he already had that connection. In addition, every year for the computer security class, Dr. Kapravelos runs a Capture The Flag competition as their final project, so we had our Capture The Flag operation a week or two before Texas A&M held theirs, so they competed in ours and had done very well.”
Weekly meetings are held Fridays at 5 p.m. in Engineering Building 3 in room 2236. Two or three weeks of the month are used to practice, and once a month they have a capture the flag competition. HackPack also hosts speakers on cybersecurity, such as NC State alumni and professors.
Brown said one of the most important lessons the club tries to teach its members is to “learn to learn.”
“We welcome everybody that has an interest in and wants to delve deeper into computer security.” Kapravelos said. “We’re always looking for more students to participate and make our team grow stronger.”
More information about HackPack, including a Discord server link, can be found on its website.