A cybersecurity high school student competition designed by students, for students.

CanHack is the Canadian category of picoCTF, a free online cybersecurity competition developed and run by Carnegie Mellon University. The game features a series of digital challenges based on unique storylines.

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Cybersecurity in today’s digital age.

In today’s digital world, understanding cybersecurity matters more now than ever before. The DMZ at Ryerson University, in partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada, have come together to launch CanHack - a cybersecurity student competition. Participants will learn critical computer security skills, work with experts in the field and have an opportunity to win up to $16,250 in cash prizes.

How it works

CanHack is divided into 60+ specific challenges spread across four levels, each advancing the story and increasing in difficulty. No experience, nor expertise is necessary and there is nothing to download!

  • Level One: Designed to challenge students’ critical thinking skills.
  • Level Two: Designed to challenge students through introductory computer programming.
  • Level Three: Designed to challenge students with a strong background in computer programming.
  • Level Four: A diverse set of problems across all categories, ranging from difficult to professional.

Participants must reverse engineer, break, hack, decrypt, or do whatever it takes to solve the problem statement. At the end of the challenge, students will walk away with a basic understanding of cybersecurity systems and:

Explore new careers

Leverage our up-to-date digital learning tools to teach the latest tech skills. Introduce students to career possibilities that exist in the growing cybersecurity field and computer science sector.

Access complimentary educational tools

Access industry approved supplies, lesson plans and guides that cover everything from coding to computational skills in order to create a well-rounded experiential learning opportunities.

Learn cybersecurity skills

Establish basic digital literacy, cybersecurity and privacy skills by providing hands-on learning for students and introduce them to experts in the field.

Prizes for top 3 teams

1st place: $2,000
2nd place: $1,000
3rd place: $750

Prizes for top 3 schools

1st place: $3,000
2nd place: $2,000
3rd place: $1,000

New this year

Top-All Female Team: $2,000

New For CanHack 2021

In partnership with our game partners Carnegie Mellon University, CanHack which has traditionally run each fall will now be run in the spring semester, hence the March dates for CanHack 2021.

We believe that all students should have equal access to educational resources.

In an effort to increase program accessibility Canada-wide (and plan around COVID-19), we’re taking CanHack virtual this year with all workshops and sessions available online for students and teachers to engage with. In coordination with proper health and safety guidelines we anticipate to run in person and virtual workshops in Fall 2020.

In addition, we are running female only workshops in Fall 2020 on a number of cybersecurity topics to support females in STEAM.

Awards criteria

In order to participate students must adhere to the following criteria:

  • Be enrolled at a Canadian high school
  • Apply individually or with a team consisting of no more than five students
  • Be registered by a teacher or adult supervisor

There is no fee to participate and students can sign up to compete until October 11, 2019. There is no limit to the number of teams that can represent a single school, and members do not have to attend the same school.

*Students and teams that do not meet these requirements can still participate, but will not be eligible to win contest prizes. Please see competition rules for details.

Sign Up

Teachers with Classes

Are you a teacher interested in signing your class up for the March 2021 Challenge and attending a CanHack workshop in Fall 2020 with your students?

Join our sign up list below and our team will reach out with more information. Dates for the 2021 Challenge, workshops and events to be confirmed by the end of June. Class sign up for workshops and the CanHack challenge will be available August 2020 after teachers receive class lists for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Teacher responsibilities and FAQ here

Mentorship Opportunities

If you have a deep expertise in cybersecurity and would like to be a mentor for students involved in CanHack 2021 we’d love to hear from you! Mentors are key team members for CanHack, helping oversee workshops in Fall 2020 and then helping students through virtual support during the challenge in March 2021.

We’d ask that all mentors are open to attending one workshop Fall 2020 to support (working hours) and be available for a half day in March 2021 to support students through cybersecurity challenges.

Dates for the 2021 Challenge, workshops and events will be confirmed by the end of June 2020.

See the form below for more information on mentorship and what being a CanHack mentor entails.

Mentor responsibility here

Program timeline (*proposed, to be confirmed Summer 2020)

June 2020 - July 2020:   Initial Sign up for Teachers and Mentors interested in getting involved in CanHack 2021
August 2020:   Class sign up available after class lists for the 2020-2021 academic calendar are released
September 2020:   Teacher & Mentor Information Sessions on CanHack workshop schedule and game
October 2020 - November 2020:   Introductory Workshops (Grades 9/10 - introductory level workshops on a number of topics including Binary Exploitation, Cryptography, Web Security Skills, Reverse Engineering & Computer Forensics)

*including female only workshops
January 2021 - February 2021:   Advanced Workshops (Grades 11/12) - introductory level workshops on a number of topics including Binary Exploitation, Cryptography, Web Security Skills, Reverse Engineering & Computer Forensics

*including female only workshops
February 2021:   Teacher & Mentor Information Sessions on PicoCTF 2021 game
March 2021:   CanHack Challenge Launch Event for PicoCTF 2021
March 2021:   PicoCTF 2021 game live
April 2021:   CanHack Cyber Expo Day + Awards Ceremony


National partner

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)

RBC is a global financial institution with a purpose-driven, principles-led approach to delivering leading performance. Our success comes from the 81,000+ employees who bring our vision, values and strategy to life so we can help our clients thrive and communities prosper. As Canada’s biggest bank, and one of the largest in the world based on market capitalization, we have a diversified business model with a focus on innovation and providing exceptional experiences to our 16 million clients in Canada, the U.S. and 34 other countries.

University partner

Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst empowers Canadians and Canadian businesses to seize the opportunities and tackle the challenges of cybersecurity. We do this through training and certification, commercial acceleration and support for cyber scale-ups, applied research and development, public education, and policy development. Based in Brampton, Rogers Cybersecure Catalyst is driven by strong partnerships with industry, government and academia, ensuring Canada's global competitiveness in cybersecurity.

Contributing partners

Carnegie Mellon CyLab is a world leader and a bold and visionary effort, which establishes public-private partnerships to develop new technologies for measurable, secure, available, trustworthy, and sustainable computing and communications systems.
The DMZ is a leading tech accelerator headquartered in Toronto, Ontario that helps high-potential startups grow and scale to world-class businesses. Also supporting ideation and validation stage startups, the DMZ’s incubator program has been ranked number one in the world by UBI Global. Since 2010, the DMZ has helped 424 startups raise over $715 million and foster more than 3874 jobs.
Ryerson University is Canada’s leader in innovative and career-oriented education. Urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 44,600 students, including 2,600 master’s and PhD students, 3,100 faculty and staff, and nearly 185,000 alumni worldwide.
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