LINAS team win the Best Teamwork Award at Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge
In April, our team of four LINAS PhD researchers competed in the European edition of the international Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge competition, organised by the Atlantic Council and hosted by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP).
Our QUB team for the Cyber 9/12 Challenge this year included LINAS students Jessica Barr (Maths & Physics), Marc Elliott (EEECS), David Mark (Law) and Jason McKillen (SSESW).
The Cyber 9/12 Challenge competition is aims to provide students from a range of academic disciplines from universities, research institutes and militaries, with a deeper understanding of the policy challenges associated with an escalating cyber incident and potential cyber conflict. Part-interactive learning experience and part-competitive scenario exercise, it challenges teams to respond to a realistic, evolving, multinational cyber security incident.
The competition runs annually in several host locations and Queen’s University Belfast has been a regular competitor at the UK edition of the event in recent years. However due to a change in rules this year, our team competed in the European edition of the tournament, which was hosted online by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. Participants from the United States, including the US Coast Guard Academy, Africa, and 11 European states were also competing. Judges on the competition reflected this international make-up, and were drawn from academia, several European militaries and the private sector.
One of only 3 teams from the UK, and competing against 31 teams from universities and institutes across the world, competitors were presented with a fictional cyber security incident and had to analyse the threats posed to national, international, and private sector interests, develop policy responses to a fictional cybersecurity incident, consider the technical, political and legal ramifications of various policy responses, provide reports, written and oral briefings and respond to the judging panel’s rigorous Q&A session.
Preparations began 5 months ago! Our team were coached by Dr Sandra Scott-Hayward (QUB, EEECS and fellow of the GCSP), for the preparation and competition phases, taking time from her annual leave to provide them with much-appreciated advice and feedback. They also had support from the collective experience of several Cyber 9/12 alumni students who had competed in previous years.
To qualify to participate in the 9/12 Strategy Challenge, teams first had to demonstrate a capacity to meet the challenges involved in the competition, as well as having a sufficient knowledge of past cybersecurity incidents and current threats. Qualifying teams were then provided with an ‘intelligence report’ outlining the details of the fictional scenario. They had to produce a summary of the scenario, being careful to avoid red herrings and deliberate misinformation. The intelligence report comprised both technical and political information and teams had to draw on their background reading in order to conduct an analysis of the situation. This summary was followed by a written and oral briefing, outlining the team’s proposed policy responses to the situation and the rationale behind them.
Having written and submitted their initial policy responses, the final stage of the Cyber 9/12 competition began on April 21st, during the Easter holidays. The team met early in the morning at the Mitchell Institute for cups of coffee and a last-minute review of their notes. They were among the first to present their oral briefing and performed strongly, receiving strong praise from the judges, who included academics and senior cybercrime investigators from Europol. Following their briefing, the team answered 15 minutes of rigorous questions from the judges about their policy recommendations. After receiving feedback, the team retired for lunch and attended several workshops provided by the competition organisers.
After all teams had presented, the judges selected eight finalists who would progress to the finals and announced the winners of the four awards:
- Most Creative Policy Response
- Best Teamwork
- Best Oral Presentation
- Best Decision Document
We are delighted to announce that our LINAS team won the Best Teamwork Award. The judges were very impressed by the teams’ ability to work strongly together, to communicate and respond to questions outwith their areas of expertise. Whilst our team were not amongst the 8 finalists selected to progress to the next stage of the competition, they greatly enjoyed being participating in the competition and to continuing the Mitchell Institute’s tradition of success in the annual Cyber 9/12 competitions.
The team hugely enjoyed the Cyber 9/12 experience, in particular meeting the challenge posed by competing in an area in which none of us have a strong background. We loved working together and were delighted to have our efforts and commitment recognised by the Best Teamwork Award.
Jason McKillen, LINAS Student, EEECS
The team impressed the panel of judges, with each judge commenting on the quality of their presentation demonstrating good practice in structure, content, and delivery. In particular, the judges commended their team dynamic and good division of work amongst the team members.
Dr Sandra Scott-Hayward, CSIT
The team strongly enjoyed participating in the competition and are proud to have contributed to QUB’s tradition of Cyber 9/12 success. They are greatly appreciative of Dr Sandra Scott-Hayward for her time, patience and expert assistance, along with the members of 2021’s QUB delegation who provided their time and advice.
All four members of the team look forward to assisting with next year’s representatives as they prepare for what will hopefully be a return to in-person competitions.