Capture the Flag events are a popular form of hacking contests held both for sport among the world’s top security researchers and for enterprise security training initiatives. Government agencies and private businesses can use these contests to refine employees’ skill sets in anything from reverse engineering to forensics to vulnerability patching. Contest environments need to be tightly controlled, especially when verifying the results.
Cromulence needed to run its own custom Xen hypervisor to set up a secure testing environment that was finely tuned to meet detailed specifications of an international CTF hacking challenge. The final round of the event involved a number of elite participants going through a series of different cyber challenges, all of which needed to be recreated in a separate environment in order to verify the results. To do this, the company also required physical access to the supporting infrastructure. Since Amazon Web Services (AWS) and other commodity cloud providers do not offer either of these features, Cromulence sought another service that could provide much more granular control of the physical infrastructure but that could also be spun up quickly and then immediately shut down following the event – just like a public cloud service.
Cromulence found that a bare-metal cloud service would offer the best of both worlds, combining the physical infrastructure access, control and higher performance of a private hosting environment with the on-demand instant provisioning and scalability of the cloud. After identifying Internap as one of the few vendors offering a true bare-metal cloud service, Cromulence elected to use its AgileSERVER to support the project.
Cromulence set up its competition verification environment using AgileSERVER at Internap’s Dallas data center. AgileSERVER delivers dedicated bare-metal servers in per-second configurations and allows users like Cromulence to take advantage of OpenStack open source cloud tools such as Glance image management, which can quickly import disk images from other environments.
Because Internap’s bare-metal cloud delivered 100 percent of the servers’ processing power and throughput resources to Cromulence – avoiding the resource contention inherent to public clouds – the service delivered the consistently high performance levels needed to take a complex series of events that occurred during every stage of the competition, and quickly replicate and verify their veracity in an identical second version of the contest environment.
Using Internap’s AgileSERVER bare-metal cloud, the prestigious competition was carried out without a hitch, and Cromulence can now use a similar approach for similar training competitions used by organizations of all types around the world.