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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




2018 AppSec Hackathon Highlights!

Solo Player from Brisbane Claims Victory

Over 100 cybersecurity professionals, code developers and students walked in the shoes of a cybercriminal for the day to test their skills and learn new ways to defend against cyberattacks at the 4th annual Shearwater Application Security Hackathon.

Growing in popularity, and with many returning participants (we thank you for your continued support), the Hackathon expanded this year to include venues in Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as the opportunity to participate remotely.

Attracting cybersecurity specialists and software developers from a mix of commercial, government and consulting roles, plus a number of talented university students, participants went head-to-head in this Capture the Flag competition and unique style of training event.

At the end of the day the results were as follows:

2018 Winners

First Place Team Menace Ian Esplin – Security Analyst, Acumenis, Brisbane
Second Place Team YDT James Dickens – Software Developer, Your Development Team, Melbourne
Matthew Cullen – Cybersecurity Graduate, Telstra, Melbourne
Third Place Team ComeExploitMe James Goddard 
Joseph Hardman 

Ethan Hillas 

Paul Hossack
(All Macquarie University Students)

Powered by CMD+CTRL from Security innovation, this year’s challenge featured 2 fully functional targets including an eCommerce and HR website, with over 70 intentional vulnerabilities for participants to find and attempt to exploit.

Shred Retail, e-Commerce Website Comprising 35+ Vulnerabilities.

Account All, HR Website Comprising 40+ Vulnerabilities.

The challenges were designed to cater to a range of abilities and each challenge (ranging from SQL injection, password cracking, XSS, authorisation and business logic bypass, cryptanalysis, cipher cracking and more) was carefully chosen to simulate the vulnerabilities commonly found in commercial applications today.

Together, the participants solved 39% of the challenges in Account All and 33% of the challenges in Shred, finding 65% of the Basic, 54% of the Easy, 32% of the Medium and 19% of the Hard issues with many achieving the strongest point in the Security Misconfiguration category (56%).

But importantly, guided by cheat sheets, learning labs and application security and penetration testing experts from Security Innovation and Shearwater Solutions, participants experienced how quickly and easily a poorly protected application’s security can crumble.

This was demonstrated at this year’s Hackathon by several participants. In this year’s exciting finale, Ian Esplin, a solo player from Brisbane, jumped to the top of the leader board, ahead of second half leader Team YDT (James Dickens and Matthew Cullen, from Melbourne) with a last-minute creative SQLMap exploit to gain control of the HR target’s database.

Team Menace, AKA Ian Esplin, IT Security Analyst, Acumenis, Brisbane takes 1st place, plus the solo player award.

Following last year’s impressive win by Sydney’s Optus Macquarie University Cybersecurity Hub Students, the Hub returned, with their new team ComeExploitMe (James Goddard, Joseph Hardman, Ethan Hillas, Paul Hossack) taking 3rd place. Another of this year’s student teams, Stuxxy, 2 cybersecurity students from Deakin University (Daniel Deliva and Daniel Le Souef), deserve an honourable mention for leading the first half of the day, demonstrating the talent of Australia’s up-and-coming cybersecurity professionals.

Team YDT, AKA James Dickens & Matthew Cullen win second place.

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

Team Menace wins the Shearwater Hackathon Trophy, a $1000 JB Hi-Fi gift card + the solo player award (North Face backpack.)

Team YTD wins a $600 JB Hi-Fi gift card

Team ComeExploitMe wins a $400 JB Hi-Fi gift card.

Shearwater’s annual Application Security Hackathon is open to individuals and teams of up to four participants. Register for 2019 Hackathon >>

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Phriendly Phishing Review in ITWire

No matter the protections you have in place, the last defence for cyber security rests with the end user. But how do you educate in a respectful, engaging way?

David M Williams, CIO, tried out Shearwater’s Phishing Awareness Training & Simulation Solution, Phriendly Phishing, built on this very premise, finding it reduced risk and exposure to phishing and that his users enjoyed the process.

Read about his experience in ITWire.

A Milestone for Microsoft Australia and Shearwater

We are very excited about Microsoft’s announcement that the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) has certified a number of Microsoft’s Australian based online services offerings.

The majority of these newly certified services are simply not available from any other cloud service. With these certifications, Australian hospitals, educators and government agencies at federal, state and local level can all take advantage of sophisticated capabilities like machine learning and analytics, internet-of-things, and advanced threat protection – all in the cloud – with the confidence that these services are verified and certified by the Australian government.

We are proud to say that the Shearwater team with their combined expertise have played a key part in enabling this milestone. and in helping Microsoft demonstrate compliance with the Australian Government requirements for ICT systems.

In his LinkedIn article, Microsoft’s Chief Technology Officer, James Kavanagh, wrote “ We chose to engage an Australian company called Shearwater to lead that (IRAP) assessment because of their reputation for rigour and expertise. They performed their work in multiple stages and then presented their reports to Australian Signals Directorate.”

Engagements such as these are incredibly exhaustive. Our Canberra Team has worked tirelessly in Australia and the US to understand each cloud service architecture, review documentation and processes, interview stakeholders, and to validate that the right controls are in place and effective.

Our senior consultants have the necessary ASD IRAP experience and were able to execute on a methodology that successfully addressed Microsoft’s and ASD’s IRAP program requirements. They have handled what was a really complex set of objectives and demonstrated the wealth of experience and expertise that sets us apart from the crowd.

No two engagements are ever the same; the ability to use multiple tools and tailor a solution that delivers the best possible outcome for customers means that we’re always able to inform a strong, successful strategy.

Microsoft’s exciting announcement is just the start of a new and more connected future for government and business. We couldn’t be more delighted to be involved in the journey to guide one of the world’s most influential organisations through Australian Government ICT security requirements.

Well done team for delivering on our values of offering a magical customer experience and owning the outcome.

For more information on Microsoft’s latest offering, please check out these links:

Computer World
The Australian
Australian Financial Review

NSW Government announces first eight fintech startups entering Tel Aviv landing pad

The NSW Government has announced the first eight fintech startups to enter the Tel Aviv landing pad, one of five that has been commissioned by the the Federal Government’s Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade). Looking to push Sydney’s reputation as Australia’s fintech capital, the NSW Government worked in partnership with Austrade to help get local startups to Israel.

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Phriendly Phishing selected for an exclusive startup program in Tel Aviv

Media Release

Sydney, NSW – Phriendly Phishing, Australia’s pioneering phishing awareness training provider, has been selected as one of eight New South Wales businesses to be part of an intensive startup accelerator program, the Tel Aviv Landing Pad, in Israel.

Aiming to stimulate Australian innovation and entrepreneurship, ‘Landing Pads’ are being held across the globe with the Tel Aviv Landing Pad located at South of Salame (SOSA), a community founded by some of Israel’s most prominent angel and venture capital investors.

Announcing earlier this month, Minister for industry, Resources and Energy Anthony Roberts, said this would allow Australia’s best and brightest to access talent, mentors and investors in some of the most exciting global innovation hubs and bring what they’ve learnt back to Australia.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for some of our best and brightest fintech and cyber startups to engage with other global players and to showcase NSW’s capabilities in these sectors”, Mr Roberts said.

Phriendly Phishing’s General Manager Damian Grace, said he was looking forward to being part of the Tel Aviv Landing Pad.

“I am confident that we are well positioned to take advantage of the program. The demand that we are seeing for security awareness training is unprecedented.

“Founded as an Australian alternative to American security awareness training, we currently have more than 70,000 users in Australia and New Zealand. Now with agreements in New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, South Africa and Europe we’re only going to see this number climb. With access to international expertise, Landing Pad will help us identify strategic partnership opportunities to accelerate our growth”, Mr Grace said.

For more information on Landing Pads, please visit

About Phriendly Phishing

Phriendly Phishing is an engaging, nurturing and comprehensive phishing education program for staff. By reinforcing awareness training with simulated real-world scenarios, Phriendly Phishing enhances phishing detection skills across private and government organisations and contributes to threat mitigation efforts. Easy to deploy, user-friendly and measurable, Phriendly Phishing provides security leaders with key improvement metrics to demonstrate success to stakeholders and raise awareness of security goals.