Everything You Need to Know About the NCL Gym (but Were Too Afraid to Ask Someone)


If you are new to the National Cyber League (NCL) Games, then the information laid out in this blog post is for you!!! You can also tune into the players and coaches Crowdcasts where you can talk to the Player Ambassadors directly.

If you are coming back to the NCL (WHERE DID YOU GO?!), then it might be a good time to get rid of those cobwebs with regards to some of your “skillz” and get back to the fun of the Games.

So the question that you must be asking yourself is, “If the NCL Game is a ‘sport,’ where do you go to train?”

Answer: The Gym and that’s why the people over at Cyber Skyline, the company who hosts and develops the NCL Games, set up a place for you to practice a selection of the type of problems you are going to encounter when you play in the NCL Games.

This will be your chance to learn some new skills in a way that will not affect your performance in the NCL season. Although the problems in the Gym are not a direct example of what you will encounter in the NCL Games, it will open your eyes to a whole new realm of tools and skills that will help you develop within the Games, and it’s included within your NCL cost!

So where is this wonderful Gym? Well, I shall elaborate.

First, head over to Cyber Skyline and log in, and click in the top left where it says “Dashboard” if you weren’t taken automatically to it when you logged in. At this point if you are already registered to play for the season you should see a card looking section that says “Practice Gymnasium” and it should look like the picture below.

Over time, your Dashboard will start to fill with different cards from the different seasons you’ve competed in, but your Gymnasium card should always be on the top left-hand side.

Click on the card for the Gym and let’s see what’s on the other side.

There are 4 functional areas associated with the Gym screen so we’ll take a look at each one now.

Entry to the gym challenges.

This one is really simple. Check out the screenshot below. To enter the Gym, simply click on the “Enter” button where fun awaits!

Next up: The scorecard!

On the left-hand side of the screen is the modules overview. This lists the categories of challenges available and, once you get started, your percentage completion of those categories. From the screenshot below you can see you will be facing challenges in OSINT (Open Source Intelligence Gathering), Cryptography, and so on. As mentioned before, these challenges are very similar to the ones found in the NCL Games but not identical.

On the right-hand side of the screen is your Gym scorecard. This is where you can track your points progress through the Gym and find your percentage accuracy. (Yes, it’s not only a case of getting the problems right but getting them right first time!) Below that is a graph visually showing your progress through the Gym.

Right! Now for the fun stuff. Click on “Enter,” and let’s take a look at what all the fuss is about

Let’s hit the Gym!

The screenshot below shows you the Game area for the Gym. In this case, it is an OSINT problem.

Any resources required for a problem such as pictures, log files, pcap files, etc., are normally located at the top of the challenge screen. In this case, the resource is a lovely picture of a lamb and the associated link to download the file.

At the bottom of the screen is an area for the solution (DON’T TOUCH THAT YET!) and across from that are the questions pertaining to that problem.

Up near the top left-hand side of the screen are some interesting icons—firstly, the three lines on top of each other. This allows you to choose different challenges within the module. The difficulty of the challenge is listed next to its title (Easy, Medium, Hard).

Also included in the screenshot is the “?” for challenge hints, the number of attempts remaining, a history function, and lastly a small speech bubble for feedback.

Now, since the Gym is a place for learning, if you are so stuck on a problem and feel there is no way for you to be able to solve it, you can click on the solution box. This will present you with a PDF of the solution as well as the answer to the current set of questions being asked of you. Even the solutions may not be straightforward, especially if you are very new to the topic you are attempting to learn, so don’t be surprised if there is some extra research and digging required to find out how to implement the solution, but then that’s half the fun in the end!

Whenever you’d like to explore a different module, you can do so quickly by clicking where it says “Open Source Intelligence” at the top to expand the navigation menu.

In summary, the NCL Gym is a great way to practice challenges in a similar (but not identical) vein to the actual Games, it doesn’t affect your performance in any of the NCL seasons, and it is a great way to learn new skills and discover new tools!

So get in there and enjoy!

Fred

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