Carnegie Mellon University
Martorana_cmu_0041O_10816.pdf (225.21 kB)

Investigating the Experiences of Female CTF Players

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posted on 2023-01-23, 21:18 authored by Antonio Martorana

There have been many efforts focused on improving the representation of females in cybersecurity. Capture the flag (CTF) platforms have primarily been the tool of choice to teach fundamental skills and spark interest in the profession. However most platforms aim to address the initial learning curve for newcomers, many have not focused on diversity and inclusivity as a goal. While some research evaluates CTF design to improve participation and retention, this thesis aims to provide a secondary perspective. Through interviews conducted with 13 female-identifying CTF players and an overview of 207 female competitors from a CTF event hosted at the 2021 Women in Cybersecurity Conference, this thesis highlights factors that might motivate a female player’s willingness to continue with CTFs or cybersecurity education. Our findings: (i) suggest that collaboration provides an incentive for female players to participate through advanced stages of a CTF, (ii) suggest a more robust environment that engages women and beginners will help with recruitment and continued participation, and (iii) support previous findings that CTFs introduce a variety of technical and mental skills. This thesis provides some preliminary recommendations for future work, and suggestions to picoCTF to enable more performance analysis. 




Degree Type

  • Master's Thesis


  • Information Networking Institute

Degree Name

  • Master of Science in Information Technology (MSIT)


Hanan Hibshi

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