A major cyber attack has occurred. How should your nation respond?

14 March 2018 08:55
Cyber 9/12 © Atlantic Council Cyber 9/12

We frequently hear the terms “Cyber 9/11” and “Digital Pearl Harbor,” but what might policymakers do the day after a crisis? The Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is an annual cyber policy competition for students across the globe to compete in developing national security policy recommendations tackling a fictional cyber catastrophe. In 2018, the Student Challenge will take place in London, United Kingdom in February, Washington, DC in March, and Geneva, Switzerland in April.

What is this challenge about?

Now entering its sixth year, the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is a one-of-a-kind competition designed to provide students across academic disciplines with a deeper understanding of the policy challenges associated with cyber crisis and conflict. Part interactive learning experience and part competitive scenario exercise, it challenges teams to respond to a realistic, evolving cyberattack and analyse the threat it poses to national, international, and private sector interests.

Students have a unique opportunity to interact with expert mentors and high-level cyber professionals while developing valuable skills in policy analysis and presentation. The competition has already engaged over 700 students from universities in the United States, United Kingdom, France, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Switzerland, Austria, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, and Estonia.

Led by Daniel Price (Associate Director and Business Partnerships Manager for Security Lancaster) and advised by Mark Lacy from the Politics, Philosophy and Religion Department, the Lancaster University team was comprised of Ric Derbyshire, James Boorman, Wojciech Strupczewski and Karena Kyne.

Imminent cyber war, keynote speakers of the highest calibre, and drinks on the 34th floor. Or in other words, a weekend away for the Lancaster University interdisciplinary team at the Cyber 9/12 event organised by the Atlantic Council at the BT Tower in London.

Based on an analysis of the above, our team went on to develop a set of policy recommendations aimed at countering said threat vectors. These recommendations were divided up across tactical, operational, strategic and policy action-levels, as well as the short, medium and long-term time frames.

Composed of both computer science and International Relations academics, our team employed a dual technical and political approach. 

With the exercise scenario including such aspects as aviation networks, stock exchange tampering and social media manipulation, technical expertise was of paramount importance, as was our ability to effectively merge it with a policy-side approach aimed at developing politically feasible and coherent recommendations.

The necessity of this multi-faceted approach was a demanding challenge but in the end, both beneficial and rewarding to all of us. Integrating such disparate skills led us all to grow significantly as professionals.

Once at the event, we were able to present our work to a panel of judges, composed of top-tier executives from the cyber divisions of multi-national banks, internet corporations and the government.

In addition to our presentation, we had the pleasure of attending an array of fascinating panels that all included the same top brass from both the public and private sector, as well as keynote addresses delivered by prominent figures in the cyber community. 

Besides these more professionally-oriented activities, we were able to enjoy lunches and drinks at the BT Tower, networking with members of other universities as well as the judges and keynote speakers. The most memorable of all was the opportunity to enjoy a few drinks as well as the assembled company, on the 34th floor of the BT Tower, which provided a magnificent view over the entirety of London. Needless to say, numerous selfies were taken.

In the evenings, our team enjoyed dinners in the city, relaxing after a day of hard work, with some socialising thrown in.

All in all, it was a superb event that we all fully enjoyed. Not only were we able to expand our professional skillsets in an interdisciplinary working group, but had the opportunity to learn and network with prominent figures from the cyber community, and build some lasting friendshipsWojtek Strupczewski

Find out more about the competition here:

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