About the Competition

Who are the Atlantic Council Cyber Statecraft Initiative?

The Atlantic Council - Working Together to Secure the Future. Renewing the Atlantic Community for Global Challenges The Atlantic Council promotes constructive leadership and engagement in international affairs based on the Atlantic Community's central role in meeting global challenges.

The Council provides an essential forum for navigating the dramatic economic and political changes defining the twenty-first century by informing and galvanizing its uniquely influential network of global leaders. Through the papers we write, the ideas we generate, and the communities we build, the Council shapes policy choices and strategies to create a more secure and prosperous world.

The mission of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative is to: 1) Examine the nexus of geopolitics and national security with cyberspace; 2) Continue to build out the new field of cyber safety in the Internet of Things; and 3) To help build the next generation of cybersecurity and cyberspace policy professionals. Throughout all of its work, the Initiative focuses relentlessly on providing practical, innovative, and relevant solutions to the challenges in cyberspace. The Initiative brings together a diverse network of respected experts, bridging the gap between the technical and policy communities.

Who are the Atlantic Council Cyber Statecraft Initiative?

Founded in 2011, the Cyber 9/12 Strategy 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. This will be the third UK competition. Part interactive learning experience and part competitive scenario exercise, it challenges teams to respond to a realistic, evolving cyber-attack 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 1000 students from universities in the United States, United Kingdom, France, Australia, China, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Switzerland, Hungary, Sweden, Finland, and Estonia.

Why is it called 'Cyber 9/12'?

The genesis of the event back in 2011 was comparing the challenge of protecting against '9/11' style attacks versus protecting against major cyber attacks. To link up the concepts, the name 'Cyber 9/12' was chosen.

Why do we have a UK Cyber Strategy Challenge?

Like many nations, the UK faces a critical shortage of cyber security professionals. Great progress has been made in highlighting the value of technical skills and there are some fantastic national technical competitions that are finding amazing talent. But to be nationally resilient in facing our cyber security challenges we need a talented diverse workforce consisting of technical, policy and strategy skills.

The Cyber 9/12 UK Strategy competition is the only competition that pulls together mixed discipline teams consisting of technical expertise and policy expertise and gives them a realistic joint challenge. It is hoped that we can use this to promote the dialogue around the value and need for cyber strategy and policy expertise, how we generate these skill sets and how to strengthen the teamwork between both technical and non-technical disciplines.

Applying and Logistics

Who can compete?

Full time students currently enrolled at a UK university in an undergrad or taught postgrad course on the date of the registration deadline who have not yet entered full-time employment in a cyber security role are eligible to compete. We also welcome competitors who have participated in the challenge in previous years. There is no explicit academic discipline, coursework, or prior experience in cyber security or conflict necessary to compete.

Our aim is to make cybersecurity accessible and inclusive to all through our initiative and we encourage neurodivergent applicants.

If you have any questions about eligibility, please contact us at info@ukcyber912.co.uk

Are there any requirements on team composition?

Each team must include four students. Teams that register less than four competitors may be considered at the discretion of the Competition Director, space permitting. There are no requirements for team composition based on academic disciplines but diversity is encouraged. For example, you may have team members from politics, law, computer science, international relations, geography etc.

Each team must also recruit a University staff member to act as their team coach and mentor. While coaches are not required to attend the competition event, their participation is necessary to ensure that all teams have access to assistance in crafting their responses.

Is there funding for travel and accommodation?

There is currently no central travel or accommodation funding available for competitors to attend the competition. Applicants are highly encouraged to inquire about funding from their home institutions.

If you would like some resources explaining the benefits of competing to share with your institution, please contact us at info@ukcyber912.co.uk

What should I bring to the competition?

There are no restrictions on what teams may bring with them to the venue. However, during the competition rounds, no electronic assistance will be permitted. Teams are encouraged to use written or printed notes to help them during their presentations.

The Competition

How is the competition structured?

Around one month before the competition, all competing teams receive 'Intelligence Report I', setting the stage for the simulated cyberattack. Teams are then given approximately three weeks to prepare a short written policy brief on the scenario. The two days of the competition are divided into qualifying, semi-final, and final rounds.

On the first day, each team will give a 10 minute verbal presentation to a panel of judges, who will then have 10 mins to ask questions, score and give feedback. The highest scoring teams advancing to the semi-final round will be announced at an evening reception on the Monday, where they will also receive 'Intelligence Report II' which further evolves the simulated scenario.

On the second day, in the UK competition, teams not advancing to the semi-final round will be given a morning of expert coaching by senior industry leaders as well as the opportunity for a question and answer session to explore how to improve their skills. Semi-finalist teams will (in the same process as the first day) present their updated strategy recommendations based on the evolved scenario.

Teams advancing to the final round receive 'Intelligence Report III' and very limited time to evolve their recommendations. During the afternoon of the second day, the three finalist teams will present in the auditorium to a panel of senior judges and all other competitors not taking part in the final. The competition concludes with an awards reception.

What tasks are part of the competition?

The competition scenario will focus on a fictional evolving and escalating cyberattack scenario described through three packs consisting of multiple fictional inserts ranging from press, intelligence reports, white papers etc. The competition encompasses tasks, both written and oral, that challenge students to respond to the political, economic, and security problems created by the evolving cyberattack scenario.

Written Cyber Strategy Brief

Before the arriving at the competition, the teams will submit a short strategy brief giving their analysis on what has been presented to them in the scenario materials. This brief is limited to 500 words and two pages of A4. The score for this strategy brief will be added to the oral presentation scores from Round 1 to decide what teams go through to the semi-final.

Sources and citations are not required. If used, they will count toward the total page count.

Decision Document

Teams will be required to submit a "decision document" accompanying their oral presentation at the beginning of the first round and semi-final competition round. The "decision document" will be no more than two sides of A4 in length, outlining the team's decision-making process and recommendations. It must be stressed that this document is used to support the oral presentation, and judges will only be given 2 mins to read it before the presentation starts, clarity and brevity are highly recommended.

Sources and citations are not required. If used, they will count toward the total page count.

Oral Cyber Briefs

Oral Cyber Briefs Teams will be given ten minutes to present their policy recommendations, followed by ten minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges. More detailed instructions will be distributed to the teams before the competition. There is no requirement for the structure or format of presentations. Presentations are limited to ten minutes. Each team must decide how to best conduct their briefing.

No presentation aids (e.g., PowerPoint, props, or posters) are permitted. Teams will not be allowed to use electronic devices such as mobile phones and computers during the competition events, when teams are presenting or answering judge questions. However, teams may use electronic devices such as mobile phones and computers during the breaks between rounds. Paper notes are highly encouraged at all times during the competition.

Is there a set of rules?

A comprehensive set of competition rules will be distributed to all teams and coaches before the competition starts.

What prizes will be awarded?

There will be awards for the top three performing teams based on score. Each year we give additional awards for areas such as best written brief, best oral presentation, best teamwork and most creative policy response. Note that this additional prizes change from year to year.

Prizes are generously provided by our sponsors and partners, so they change each year. In the past we have had teams travel to DEF CON in Las Vegas, travel to Blackhat Europe, receive internships, courses and even hard cash!

Is the competition accessible?

Here, at the UK Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge, we are driven by ensuring fair access to all no matter their background. We place high importance on supporting everyone to feel welcomed & accommodated wherever possible. Over the last few years, in consultation with our partners, subject matter experts and in listening to our participants we have made the following enhancements:

  1. Hosted keynotes & panel discussion on building an inclusive profession & supporting neurodiversity in the cyber workforce.

  2. Asked students if they have any individual requirements to support them to get the most out of the competition.

  3. Enforced a policy of no observers for the Qualifying & Semi-Final rounds.

  4. All Qualifying Rounds are standardised to ensure fairness in scoring. Each Qualifying Round and Semi-Final Round utilises a similar room setup so no student teams face the spotlights of the main stage during the initial rounds.

  5. Conducted a thorough Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) review of the Intelligence Reports to add accessibility features.

  6. Asked Coaches to attend Finals Event to provide support to student teams.

  7. Liaised with representative organisations of the neurodiverse community to help design an accessible Finals Event.

  8. Provided stress balls as part of student competitor welcome packs as a relaxation aide.

  9. Provided a quiet area for students to have an opportunity to reset & recharge.

  10. Provided those attending the BT Tower with an outline of the different rooms & meeting spaces so that they already have a degree of familiarity with the venue before arrival.

  11. Provided lanyards for all those attending the BT Tower so that name badges do not need to be pinned to chest.

  12. Provided different colour lanyards to allow people to more easily identify the different categories of people attending the BT Tower.

  13. Provided electronic copies of the documentation during all stages of the competition.

  14. Partnered with organisations to promote the value of this competition to minority groups to encourage participation and engagement.

  15. Worked with Sponsors and the NCSC to create a Supporting Access Fund so that no student competitor is unable to participate due to the cost of attending the Finals Event in London.

Should there be something you would like our support to ensure that you are able to fully benefit from the UK Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge then please reach out to us on info@ukcyber912.co.uk and we will endeavour to come up with a suitable solution.