DOE’s CyberForce Competition for college students to be held virtually on Nov. 14

Published on October 22, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will hold a competition that allows college students to compete in a realistic cybersecurity defense exercise.

The DOE’s sixth CyberForce Competition will take place on November 14 and will be held virtually. Because it is virtual, individuals rather than teams represent their respective academic institutions in this year’s competition. Similarly to past years, the competitors are charged with defending cyber systems of simulated critical infrastructure against threats modeled on those faced by the energy sector today.

The specific scenario this year involves a wind energy company in charge of over 20,000 megawatts of electricity generation that has been experiencing abnormal network activity.

“The U.S. energy sector is under constant threat of cyberattacks,” Mark Wesley Menezes, deputy secretary of energy at DOE, said. “The CyberForce Competition is unique in that it trains the next generation of cyber professionals on defending the energy infrastructure while also maintaining usability of the systems.”

Around 400 students from accredited U.S. institutions will be selected to participate in the competition by random lottery. The competition offers virtual interactions with seasoned industry practitioners and maps performance to measurable standards so competitors can quantify their strengths.

“In 2020’s CyberForce Competition™, DOE will provide students a real-world cyber threat scenario to test and grow their technical skills,” said Alexander Gates, senior advisor at the DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). “The competition is a key element of our efforts to build this workforce of the future as a strategic asset that protects the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life.”

Argonne National Laboratory will manage the competition on behalf of CESER. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratory will also be part of this year’s event. The competition is funded by CESER and the DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, and Office of Science.

CyberForce is part of DOE CESER’s efforts to grow the American cybersecurity workforce to fill the current skills gap.