Skills, teamwork, late nights and other reasons why Cyber 9/12 rocks

Andreas Haggman explains how the UK Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge differs from your typically cyber security competition.


Andreas Haggman

2/13/20192 min read

I first came across Cyber 9/12 (the Geneva edition) as a PhD student at Royal Holloway’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security. I was instantly enamoured by the competition because I had long looked with envy at the CTFs and hackathons available to technical students. Finally, I thought, here was something that seemed to be just as exciting as any technical competition or game, but in my seemingly niche non-technical space. Cyber 9/12 lived up to those expectations and so much more.

I have many vivid memories from my time in Geneva, from rehearsing our team’s well-choreographed presentation to winning the award for Most Creative Policy Response.

What stands out though is both the exhaustion and satisfaction from staying up until 3am working on our policy responses to the second intelligence pack. In those wee Swiss hours, we really pulled together as a team and came up with some surprisingly brilliant analysis and policies. Sure, we might not have made it through to the final round, but I was proud of our efforts and the enjoyment working so closely with a team all in the same boat was worth the bleary eyes the next day. Teamwork really does make the dream work.

Andreas Haggman, DCMS (@Andreas_Haggman)

Andreas headshot
Andreas headshot

Aside from the value of teamwork in general, my single biggest takeaway from competing in Cyber 9/12 was understanding the importance of multidisciplinary approaches to cyber security. On our team we had a mix of technical and non-technical people from different backgrounds (and also gender representation) which led to some very innovative policy formulation.

What really hit the lesson home for me though, was after the event when we reflected back on our experiences, and the technical person on our team said their main takeaway had been that “in international relations it matters more who did it than what happened.” I had not previously appreciated that from a technical standpoint the who is much less relevant than the what because problem-solving does not assign blame. In policy, however, responsibility (the who) is an important matter that is part of solving the problem. Before Cyber 9/12 I had bought into interdisciplinarity on a theoretical level, but the event allowed me to experience the benefits of it first-hand.

Andreas Haggman, helping to facilitate at the 2019 competition

Andreas Haggman, helping to facilitate at the 2019 UK Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge
Andreas Haggman, helping to facilitate at the 2019 UK Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge