Working at SDSLabs (11)

grep SDSLabs

I got to know about the existence of SDSLabs, much like most of the people do, through the infamous JEE rank list they had released. Before coming to Roorkee I had looked at their portfolio and some of the applications they had launched and was thoroughly impressed. In fact, I was so impressed that my decision to take up Computer Science at IIT Roorkee instead of some other branch at some other IIT was perhaps even biased because of SDSLabs’ existence.

pacman -Sy recruits

Throughout my first semester I kept hearing about the amazing things the members of SDSLabs were working on and though I did not understand most of them, it only motivated me further to be a part of the group. I attended the lecture series they had organized, worked on few infosec challenges on Backdoor, independently learnt python and coded a couple of projects during my winter vacations and put them up on Github. By the end of my first semester here, I was pretty confident in what I had learnt. Remember this, I did not have much knowledge about programming before coming to IIT Roorkee. So, in fact, most of what I have learnt about software development in such a short time is directly/indirectly due to SDSLabs. This is what I like most about SDSLabs, that it has been successfully able to raise from scratch, a whole new culture of software development at IIT Roorkee! And not just that, SDSLabs has even played an indispensable role in promoting fields like information security, competitive programming, machine learning etc. in the campus (and beyond!). Every student here at IIT Roorkee should be grateful to SDSLabs for this.

Coming back to the recruitments, I got shortlisted directly to the interview round by winning the n00bCTF16 among the freshers. The interview was one of a kind! I remember sitting in Labs for around 4 hours being interviewed by different people in different skillsets. I got to know so many different things just being interviewed by these people in this duration than I had learnt in my entire first semester!

When I got a call from SDSLabs that I had been selected, I was ecstatic of course. But I had worked towards this end for quite some time, and it did not come to me as a shock.


I had realized during the recruitment interviews themselves that I barely knew anything. That was confirmed within the first few months of interacting with the seniors. I, slowly but surely, was getting better through the lectures and assignments that the seniors used to give, and even by just talking to them. Conversations around the dinner table during the frequent parties would be of things like UNIX, FreeBSD, and other such terms I had only heard of before. The initial few weeks were a humbling experience for sure.


I started working on Backdoor a few months later after getting familiar with the code base and understanding how it worked. It is written in PHP and it took a bit of getting used to, but it was fun nevertheless. A lot of work I did here at SDSLabs was also oriented towards sysadmin stuff. Getting the servers up and running, updating them, making sure the challenges on Backdoor were working properly etc. For this latter part, I learnt about docker containers, chroot jails, xinetd and how best to automate the entire process of secure deployment of challenges. Read about it here.

In my 3rd semester, I traveled to Surat to participate in the InOut 3.0 hackathon where we were shortlisted for the final rounds for making an in-sync music player: stroom. It was an amazing experience and I got to meet a couple of SDSLabs alumni there too!

The seniors are always ready to help you out, whether be it for SDSLabs related things or otherwise. Like I said before, most of what I learnt is directly or indirectly due to the seniors and other members.

cowsay “Do you even chill\?”

Oh yes, we do! We went on the annual trip to Rishikesh a few weeks after the recruitments where we camped near a stream, trekked a bit, played Mafia, sat around a bonfire and listened to horror stories. We had multiple gaming and movie nights in which we would watch movies and play computer games all night long. Since the SDSLabs seniors were always winning something or the other, the parties were frequent too. We dance like crazy! We have many inside jokes about the members and some applications.

After the farewell party, we stayed up all night just listening intently to the final-year seniors talk about SDSLabs. It clearly showed on their faces how much they cared for it and it’s members. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that night.


Looking back, being in SDSLabs for this past year has been a great experience. SDSLabs has changed me. Browsing hackernews and productive subreddits has become a part of my daily routine now. It makes my day when I read about a random stranger on reddit recommending Backdoor to practice security challenges, or when someone lets us know on that he wants to use it for a presentation he has to give.

I hope that I too am able to contribute to this culture that SDSLabs’ seniors have pioneered here at IIT Roorkee. I, therefore, encourage all interested freshers to give your best shot for the recruitments. We will be recruiting in January. For more details, visit .