Home Cyber Attacks Students, We’re Under Cyberattack; Go Brief the President

Students, We’re Under Cyberattack; Go Brief the President


By Glynn Cosker
Managing Editor, In Homeland Security

Day Two of the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge took place at American University in Washington,D.C. Saturday, with 15 semi-finalist teams competing for first place.

The Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is a competition designed to provide undergraduate and graduate students with a deeper comprehension of the policy challenges that present themselves when the U.S. government handles a crippling cyberattack. According to the competition’s sponsor, Atlantic Council, the contest is “Part interactive learning experience and part competitive scenario exercise; it challenges teams to respond to a realistic, evolving cyberattack and analyze the threat it poses to national, international, and private sector interests.”

Throughout the two-day competition, 40 teams from 28 colleges and universities all over the United States, are challenged to respond to a fictitious but serious cybersecurity breach with national security and international security implications. In basic terms, each team is playing the important role of the National Cybersecurity Directorate and must present their policy recommendations to the President of the United States – a policy that must take into account civilian and military welfare as well as the well-being of law enforcement, government and private business entities. On Day Two, the judges threw a few ‘wrenches into the works’ and the semi-finalist teams had to think on their feet by acting quickly and decisively – just as the real National Cybersecurity Directorate would under an evolving real-life scenario.

Related – AMU Students’ Participation in the Event: Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge: Preparing the Next Generation of Cyber Experts

The judges at the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge comprised of various cyber experts from within the military, government and private sectors including the British Embassy, the U.S. Department of Defense, The New York Times, Delta Risk, Noetic Group and many more.

Students Learn from Expert Speakers

Featured speakers at Day Two of the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge included H.E. Sorin Ducaru, Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges with NATO; Nick Leiserson, Legislative Assistant, Office of Congressman Jim Langevin (D-R.I.); Jessica Wilkerson, Oversight Associate, House Committee on Energy and Commerce; Beau Woods, Deputy Director, Cyber Statecraft Initiative, Atlantic Council; and Dr. Eric Novotny, Adjunct Professor, School of International Service, American University.

Novotny gave a presentation entitled “Crypto Wars: Old and New” – a detailed account of how cryptology has affected U.S. policy since the middle of the 20th century, right up to the current Apple-FBI dispute, which Novotny said “sets a precedent to compel the development of spyware [which creates] an internal conflict of interest for companies.” A robust question and answer session concluded with Novotny stating that “The outcome [of the FBI/Apple dispute] will not affect just iPhones, but many devices, applications, operating systems, and users … I tend to side with Apple. In the end, it’s old-fashioned police work that solves crime – and I think it should stay that way.”

Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge Atlantic Council American University
Panelists address students and coaches at the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge. Credit: AMU

Woods presented “Digital Security, Physical Safety: The Intersection of Cybersecurity and Public Safety.” The discussion highlighted the importance of cyber safety in the coming decades, as the world becomes increasingly more dependent on connected devices and the Internet.

“As we are hyper-connected, what would happen if the power went out across the city? What is the affect of hyper-connectivity on our ability to communicate with one another?” said Woods. “These are types of questions that we must all try to create a discussion about.”

And the Winner is…

From the 15 semi-finalist teams, all of which offered their responses to the judges throughout the morning, teams from four institutions were announced as finalists: Air University; National Intelligence University; U.S. Naval Academy; and American University. Each four-person team subsequently addressed a panel of eight judges (and – this time – a full audience as well) on how they’d handle the fictional catastrophe of the

The winning team: Air University
The winning team: Air University’s “Fightin’ Electrons”

downing of a commercial airliner by terrorists who had infiltrated the United States’ GPS systems. Each team gave their ideal solution (from four options) and the judges offered pointed questions that required immediate responses from the students.

During the feedback session, one of the judges, Maj. General John A. Davis (Ret.) of the U.S. Department of Defense, said “I’d hire each and everyone of you,” as a testament to the quality of the students in attendance.

The fourth annual Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge concluded Saturday evening when the judges awarded the first place prize to: Air University’s “Fightin’ Electrons.” Congratulations to them and to all of the schools that participated in this one-of-its-kind event.

For more information on the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge – including past challenges, winners, and details on next year’s competition – visit the Atlantic Council.