Like computers themselves, the Cyber Challenge is simple on the outside and complicated on the inside. The first round of the game began in June, and winners of the earlier games were brought to Washington to compete in NetWars.
In its simplest form, NetWars is an online version of Capture the Flag, with competitors vying to penetrate and take control of target computer systems and then protect them from other intruders.

The game begins when a player downloads an image and must find a hidden key within the image. They use that key to enter an online environment and use their knowledge of security vulnerabilities to exploit its system, leaving their name or "handle" in various areas.

A moderator threw a series of computer hurdles and roadblocks to further challenge the hackers and test their knowledge about computer vulnerabilities.

NetWars differs from other Capture the Flag competitions in that it also rewards hackers for defending computers, said Josh Gimer, 22, a graduate student at Colorado Tech. He likens it more to King of the Hill.