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2020 Cyber 9/12 Challenge

January 16, 2020  |  ALL DAY  |  UT Austin School of Law

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The Robert Strauss Center at The University of Texas at Austin partnered with the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative to host a “regional” round of the Atlantic Council’s renowned cybersecurity policy competition on January 16th and 17th, 2020. Nineteen teams competed in this exciting two-day competition, including teams from the University of Texas at Austin, United States Military Academy West Point, Harvard University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Texas A&M University, and Brown University. The Competition was an excellent proving ground for UT graduate students participating in the Strauss Center’s Integrated Cybersecurity Studies program.

Stay tuned for details about the 3rd Annual Austin Regional in January 2021!

2020 Austin Regional Winners

1st place: Black Jacks (United States Military Academy West Point)

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2nd place: Black Knights (United States Military Academy West Point)

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3rd place: Lewis University Flyers (Lewis University)

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Here’s what you need to know:

How does the competition work?

This is a simulation-based, judge-graded competition in which teams consisting of three to four students (who can be either graduate students or undergraduate students, from any disciplinary background) collaborate to provide policy analysis and recommendations in response to an evolving, fictional fact-pattern relating to cyber crisis and conflict. The competition is designed to reward substantive knowledge across a range of areas, including any number of policy domains as well as insights from technology, business, and law. And of course, the competition also rewards both written and spoken communication skills. The event is on the record and proceedings may be photographed and recorded for public use. More specifically: The competition revolves around a fictional simulated cyberattack scenario that evolves over the course of the competition, prompting teams to modify their policy priorities and recommendations as part of their written and oral presentations. 

Teams are evaluated and selected to participate in the competition on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration closes in December, however, we highly encourage potential teams to register as soon as possible. We distribute a set of fictional materials explaining the initial version of the scenario (along with guidelines for drafting the written response that teams must submit prior to the competition) after the teams are selected in December

Each team will draft written policy briefs in response to this initial scenario, and those written responses must be submitted no later than January 10 (normally the competition provides a two-week window for submission of the initial written policy brief, but mindful of both finals and holiday travel we have opted for a larger time window in order to give teams the most flexibility we can). The written submissions will be scored as part of the grade for the first round of the competition (and recognition will be given to the best written submission). The rest of the first-round grade will be determined by the oral presentations that will then occur on the competition’s first live day (Thursday, January 16th). The oral presentation for each team begins with a ten-minute presentation to judges based on the written brief, followed by ten minutes of answering questions from the judges. The judges’ score of the qualifying round oral presentations will be combined with the team score from the more detailed written policy brief submitted in advance of the competition, and approximately ten teams will advance to the semi-final round on day two based on those combined results.

We will announce the semi-finalists at a reception at the end of day one, and at that point, we also will distribute an updated intelligence report that expands upon the original scenario. The semi-finalist teams will then have the evening to refine and amend their analysis as they deem appropriate, with a new round of oral presentations taking place beginning on the morning of day two. Three finalist teams will be selected based on the results of that round, and at that point they will receive a third and final intelligence report, detailing further changes to the scenario. The finalist teams will have only a very short amount of time to use the new information to revise their policy responses. The finalists then will deliver a ten-minute oral presentation, followed by ten minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges.

Who can participate?

You apply as a team. Each team must have at least three, but no more than four, student members. Anyone who is a current student at the graduate or undergraduate level, without respect to the nature of your degree program, qualifies. Each team also must identify a faculty member or other professional who will serve as their coach. The coach need not attend the live component of the event (at UT on January 16 and 17) in person, though this is certainly welcome. 

What is the prize?

There are cash prizes for the student members of all three teams that reach the final round of the competition. The overall winning team will receive a total $2000 honorarium. The second-place team will receive $1000. The third-place team will receive $500. The teams will decide for themselves how to divide those prizes, of course. The student members of all three finalist teams also will receive a starter-library of cybersecurity-related books.

Deadline to apply?

You must apply as a team. The deadline for 2021 will be announced later this year. 

How to apply?


Do we have to pay to participate?

No, the event itself is free. The Strauss Center and the Atlantic Council will bear all costs for hosting and orchestrating it, including providing breakfast, lunch, and snacks during the competition. Unfortunately, we cannot also fund travel, hotel, or other costs of getting to and staying in Austin for the event.

How does this relate to the “national” Atlantic Council competition?

The winning team is guaranteed admission to the national competition, hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, later in the spring. The other teams of course remain free to apply for admission to the national competition as well. Note that this year will be the seventh year for the national competition. For more details on the national competition, click here

I have other questions. Whom can I contact?

See the rules for the competition, as well as the FAQ‘s if you have any additional questions. For further questions about the Austin regional (including to request permission to attend simply as an observer), please contact Lindsay Stanek from the Strauss Center.

See last year’s winners here.

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