CSI Ph.D. Students Compete in Cyber 9/12

In the aftermath of a massive attack, recommendations on security policy and action have to be made and implemented quickly by teams of experts supporting our nation's decision makers.  In order to prepare the next generation of cyber security experts to be policy advisors in times of crisis, Atlantic Council sponsors the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge.

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.

One of the students attending this year's challenge, the events fifth, was CSI Ph.D. student Sanchari Das.   On team led and coached by Professor Sameer Patil, members were Indiana University students Sanchari Das, Neel Sathi, Aditya Giridhar, and Quinn Gordon.  Three of the team members were undergraduates specializing in School of Public and Environmental Affairs, Law, Political Science, and Policies while Sanchari is a graduate student in Security Informatics.  Sanchari's experience was enriching both academically and practically.

It was a great learning experience to meet with actual policy makers.  Industry and government partners were on hand expressing their interest and specific needs for security professional employment.  They were appreciative of IU's multidisciplinary educational approach to security instruction and work preparation. 

IU was represented by multiple teams at the event including Maurer School of Law and the School of Informatics and Computing.  Students in the competition were tasked with assessing challenge situations, making policy advisories and then presenting persuasively their policy so that policy makers would then follow their advice.   

I really liked the diversity of our group and felt it helped the quality of our policy decision documents.  Professor Patil encouraged us heavily on the form and accessibility of making policies proposed by us. Judges appreciated the creativity of our code names which we used to help decision makers understand and connect to the content of our documents.

Also attending, CSI Ph.D. student Jacob Abbott joined a team with a representative from George Washington University and two from Johns Hopkins University who were on a team made up of members from schools that are part of the Institute for Information Infrastructure Protection (I3P). They managed to make it to the semi-finals of the competition despite it being the first policy competition any of our members had participated in.  Jacob Abbott found the challenges not only difficult, but stunningly real.

They had an amazing attention to detail.  The challenges appeared very real and even had complete reference support sites that, while fake, appeared real and like modern news and reference sites.”  

The contest seeks a multidisciplinary skill set in grading the teams policy creations and presentations.  It is not enough to have good, reasoned policy.  They require the knowledge of how to convey that policy to a stakeholder in such a way that the stakeholder understands it and takes it on as their best course of action. 

In Washington, DC, in partnership with American University's School of International Service, student teams confront a serious cybersecurity breach of national and international importance. Teams will compose policy recommendations and justify their decision-making process, considering the role and implications for relevant civilian, military, law enforcement, and private sector entities and updating the recommendations as the scenario evolves."

As Atlantic Council explains, this is a unique opportunity to meet with students from all over the world as well as practice managing crisis management before crisis occurs.  Students and judges alike bring a  wide geographic diversity, depth of backgrounds and highly educated knowledge base that all need to be interwoven in a moment of stress and speed where communication skills are of equal importance to technical acumen.  

As leaders of the conference like to quote from Mike Tyson, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."  In practice, the 9/12 Challenge hopes to form the next generation of leaders who will be ready for the challenges that lay ahead, even in the moment the blows fall.

For another perspective on the challenges experienced at the 9/12 event, the Atlantic Council has a page on the experience as well.