Highlights from our past and future events

2019 AppSec Hackathon

5 Reasons your team needs to be in it.

Attention: Management

You’ve assembled your ‘A Team’ of Security Professionals, Product Developers, Software Engineers and Programmers.

But, when it comes to application security, has complacency set in or are they constantly striving to raise the bar?

The time is right to shake things up and take them outside their comfort zone. Trying something different will provide them, and your organisation, with real advantages.

Have you considered adding some interactive and ‘hands on’ training as part of your team development? The Shearwater AppSec Hackathon is the ideal event to help you do just that.

These events are hives of activity involving intensive learning and problem solving. They bring together some of the most innovative minds. People who think outside the box.

Best of all, they inject an element of collaboration and competition, serving as the perfect vehicle for professional development.


5 reasons why you should send a team to the Hackathon:

1. Creative Destruction:

Creative-DestructionCreative destruction is the process of dismantling long-standing practices. It’s the antithesis of the usual day-to-day brief, but an invaluable exercise in building more secure applications.

Exploiting vulnerabilities in this way offers your team the opportunity to see a piece of software through the eyes of a Hacker. Having your team break our dummy site in a controlled environment allows them to acquire new knowledge that will help them build more secure applications in the future.

The objective of the learning experience is to bring application security to the forefront when developing. Your team can even add some shiny new techniques to their cybersecurity repertoire.


2. Keep Them Motivated

Keep-Them-MotivatedDon’t let your staff get stuck in a rut of repetitiveness.

All too often IT and cybersecurity jobs don’t lend themselves to motivating or engaging staff. Without stimulation, you run the risk of breeding complacency in your team, or even the risk of increased employee churn in a market of scarce talent.

That doesn’t have to be the case.

Shearwater 2019 AppSec Hackathon simulates the types of activities that probably motivated your staff to get into the industry in the first place. A winnable competition in which they earn recognition is sure to appeal to the gamer instinct in them.

What’s more, it encourages them to upskill prior to the event, so they perform to their best of their ability.


3. Up-Skilling Opportunity

Up-Skilling-OpportunityA Hackathon encourages a pooling of ideas. It’s a collaboration hub, far removed from the mental silos in which we all tend to get stuck.

In this dynamic environment, where engagement levels are high, every member of staff is likely to pick up new skills and knowledge. Even junior staff can benefit from exploiting a range of vulnerabilities that are aimed at all skill levels. They’ll also have the chance to team up with more senior colleagues, benefitting their professional development.

When your team acquires new skills in a hands-on environment, you have the potential to benefit from far higher engagement and meaningful participation compared to other, less interactive, training initiatives.

You’re giving them the perfect opportunity to showcase their talents. You can uncover previously unknown skills in your team, and you’ll identify any skills gaps in a safe environment.


4. Enhance Teamwork

Enhance-TeamworkHackathons are great opportunities to encourage teamwork.

While a Hackathon may be a pressure-cooker environment, it requires participants to work in a concentrated and tireless manner with the rest of their team. This level of intensity is great for instilling in your team a strong work ethic and a culture for collaboration. What manager doesn’t want that?


5. Identify Future Leaders

Identify-Future-LeadersWhen the pressure is on, it becomes clear which members of your team demonstrate strong potential as future leaders. Those who are able to motivate their colleagues to go the extra mile, or those who assist people who are struggling, have the potential to take on future leadership roles.

People who are willing to try different solutions to problems could end-up applying that mindset in other areas of your business.

Great future leaders aren’t only those with the strongest skills.

They can be those team members who are willing to accept personal responsibility for their decisions and actions – especially if they don’t result in success. Learning and growing from their errors will inspire others within the organisation.

During the course of the Hackathon, it should become clear who the potential leaders of your team are.


Ensure both your team and your organisation enjoy all the advantages that come with participating in these great events by joining Shearwater’s 5th Annual Hackathon this November 15.

Places are limited –  CLICK HERE  to register today!


Why participate in Hackathons?

Turning up with your laptop for a day of pen testing may not seem like everyone’s idea of a good time.

Sure – it may not be quite as thrilling as jumping into the UFC ring with Connor McGregor. But when you’re up for a serious adrenaline rush – joining a Hackathon comes a close second.

Hackathons are a great way to learn new skills. More importantly, they are a great way to network with people. You spend almost an entire day in the same room with loads of developers, cybersecurity and IT professionals. So, it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself and let others see what you can do.

You never know – you may end up meeting a great contact and landing an awesome job.

The concept of a Hackathon is pretty straight forward. Teams of up to four people need to identify vulnerabilities in a dummy site. Some of the vulnerabilities are easy to find, some are more complex. You earn points for each vulnerability found, with the more complex vulnerabilities earning more points. Whichever team earns the most points in the allotted time wins.

When Shearwater ran its annual Hackathon in 2018, Macquarie University student, James Goddard was close to completing his Bachelor of IT, Cyber Security. Together with three mates, Joseph Hardman, Ethan Hillas and Paul Hossack from the Optus Macquarie University Cybersecurity Hub, they formed a team called ‘ComeExploitMe’.

After 8 hours uncovering vulnerabilities, the team scored an impressive 3rd place – Not bad for a group of students up against seasoned pros!

We sat down with James to discuss his experience participating in the Shearwater Hackathon, how it helped him develop new skills and the benefits of Hackathons to his career.

Team ComeExploitMe, AKA James Goddard, Joseph Hardman, Ethan Hillas & Paul Hossack take 3rd place.


Q & A

Thanks for chatting with us James. What motivated you to participate in the 2018 Shearwater Hackathon?

Shearwater is a prominent, recognised leader in cyber security. Their annual Hackathon has developed a strong reputation. Macquarie University regularly sponsors groups of students to participate, so I was glad when the opportunity arose for me to join.


What aspects of the Shearwater Hackathon did you enjoy?

As a purely web-based Hackathon, I really liked the fact that when we identified a vulnerability, the flags/points were automatically awarded to our team. In other Hackathons, this doesn’t happen automatically, you need to submit a hash manually to earn your points and capture a flag.

The other unique aspect I really liked about the Shearwater CMD + CTRL Hackathon was the presentation before the challenge started outlining the variety of exploits we would be seeing.

It was also good to have coordinators available at the event to troubleshoot problems with the exploits or help point participants in the right direction.

There was a heavy focus on learning outcomes.


What level of experience did you have at the time with penetration testing?

I did not have a lot of previous experience apart from a class at uni. I had been testing myself on the ‘HackTheBox’ platform. I had also been using ‘VulnHub’ boxes to further develop my skills. The only other Hackathon I had participated in was CySCA 2018.


How complex did you find the challenges?

Most of the challenges were moderately complicated. Sometimes we were able to use the same tactics to exploit multiple vulnerabilities within the challenge.


Were the challenges appropriate for your level of experience? Would you have preferred the challenges to be more difficult or easier?

Overall, I think the challenges were appropriate for someone with my skill level and they ramped up in difficulty as you progressed through the challenge.

Even though some of the same vulnerabilities could be found multiple times in the challenge, it was a valuable experience to get into the real-world mindset of “okay this exploit works here, now where else will it work?”


Was the time allocated for the challenges appropriate?

Yes, the timing was good. The pressure was there to make you work hard.


How were the networking opportunities?

Pretty good. If you have prior knowledge and skills that you demonstrate during the Hackathon, other attendees will recognise that. I was able to connect with other participants who will be good contacts throughout my career.


Did you learn new skills? If so, was it as a result of your own efforts or through collaboration? How have you benefitted from these new skills?

Yes – I did learn new skills, both from my own efforts and through collaboration. I learnt a lot through researching potential vulnerabilities and gained more in-depth understanding about common problems. Collaborating with teammates allows you to target separate points of the website and achieve more in a shorter period of time.

I’ve also had the opportunity to us these new skills in my studies.


Has participating in the Hackathon added value to your CV?

Yes – I include my participation in the Shearwater Hackathon on my CV. It shows that I take initiative to develop practical pen testing skills. The fact I was part of the team that ranked 3rd in a well-known Hackathon demonstrates to prospective employers that I have core competencies.


What would you say to other cyber security students considering participating in a Shearwater Hackathon?

Hackathons are a great way to network and learn in a team. It is extremely satisfying working in a team to achieve a certain goal.



The 2019 Shearwater Hackathon takes place on 15 November across Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. You can also join remotely from any other location Australia-wide.

REGISTER NOW   to take advantage of SPECIAL STUDENT RATE: $49.00