Cybersecurity

Call for Teams: The Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 Policy Competition in Austin in January

By Robert Chesney
Tuesday, November 5, 2019, 11:08 AM

The Atlantic Council’s famous “Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge” competition is coming to Austin in January, in partnership with the Strauss Center at the University of Texas. Interested students should form a team and apply now!

What is Cyber 9/12?

The Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 program features simulation-based, judge-graded competitions 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. These events are 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 they also reward both written and spoken communication skills.

The marquee event for the program is the “national” competition that takes place in Washington every March. But in recent years the program has been extended to other locations as well, including the New York event that Columbia co-sponsors each November and the Austin event that the University of Texas co-sponsors each January.

Where and when will the Austin Regional take place?

The event takes place at the University of Texas School of Law on Jan. 16th and 17th. Deadline and logistics to apply?

The deadline to apply is 2pm central time on Friday Dec. 6th. You must apply as a team, meaning that there should be a single application listing all team members.

The link to apply is here.

Note: the event has capacity for up to 24 teams maximum. Please note that teams will be evaluated and selected to participate in the competition on a first-come, first-served basis. We therefore encourage potential teams to register as soon as possible.

Teams should consist of at least three, and no more than four, students. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to apply, and far from being restricted to any particular area of study we encourage applications from teams representing a variety of fields. 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 they are certainly welcome.

Is there a fee?

There is no fee for participating in the event, and breakfast and lunches are included on both days. Teams must arrange and pay for their own travel, lodging, and dinners, however.

What happens once my team is accepted?

We will 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) on Friday, December 13. Each team will then have about a month during which to draft written policy briefs in response to this initial scenario. Those written responses must be submitted no later than close of business on January 10, 2020 (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).

Those 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, Jan. 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.

All teams are expected to remain at the event throughout the competition. Teams that do not advance to the semi-final round will have an opportunity to hear from and interact with our guest speakers on Day 2, and all non-advancing teams will be allowed to observe the final round.

What is the prize?

Bragging rights, certainly. But it’s more than that. The student members of all three teams that reach the final round of the competition will receive an honorarium (to be divided amongst the student team members). Specifically, 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 each receive a starter-library of cybersecurity-related books.

Note, too, that the winning team is guaranteed admission to the Atlantic Council’s national competition 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 please contact Lindsay Stanek from the Strauss Center.