UAlbany CEHC Students - The Cyber Danes - Compete in the Annual Cyber 9/12 Competition

CEHC Students at the Cyber 9/12 Competition

By Fiona Hernandez

ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 23, 2023) — Last month, students from the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity competed with over 20 teams from leading colleges and universities in the “Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge.” Started and sponsored by the Atlantic Council, these are one-of-a-kind competitions among prominent academic institutions around the world. The “UAlbany Cyber Danes” was the University at Albany team’s moniker, with team members – Angelica Hernandez, Sameeha Liton, Austin Mueke, and Shannon Morgan. Students competed by sharing their analysis and recommendations in response to a complex, multi-disciplinary scenario prompt of a cyber crisis within a tense and escalating international environment.

The judges at the competition were cybersecurity experts drawn from business, government, academia, and non-profit organizations. They comprised panels of judges portraying the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council (NSC). Before the competition the team composed a situational brief analyzing the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge’s 32-page crisis scenario. They followed this up by distilling it all down to a one-page summary of key threats and policy objectives. On the day of competition, the team went before the judges to give a 10-minute oral brief of their analysis and recommendations. They distinguished themselves before the panel who provided them with a critique while probing the students’ analysis and reasoning.

The UAlbany Cyber Danes engaged with the scenario involving hypothetical events related to escalating tensions in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines. They made specific, compelling proposals for U.S. and allied governmental actions, as well as some by private businesses, to mitigate cyber attacks and vulnerabilities, while also de-escalating geopolitical tensions.

The two days of competition also included important educational and professional development events for the Cyber Danes. The students attended the keynote speech by Maria Ressa, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning journalist and author. They participated in several technology demonstrations by industry representatives and benefitted from professional networking opportunities, such as one led by McKinsey & Co. at One World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.  

The team was coached by Professor of Practice David Turetsky with the assistance of Elisabeth Dubois, who recently finished her Ph.D. in Information Science at UAlbany. Cybersecurity Department Chair Ariel Pinto, Assistant Professor Unal Tatar, and Assistant Professor Benjamin Yankson helped the team prepare by playing judges in a practice round at UAlbany. The Cyber Danes competed against teams from Georgetown, Columbia, Duke, Carnegie Mellon, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, the U. S. Air Force Academy, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. UAlbany has participated in this August competition over the last several years. In the summer of 2020, UAlbany fielded an all-female student team that competed remotely in a competition based in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge was a fantastic opportunity to apply my knowledge learned in college so far,” said Angelica Ramirez Hernandez, a first year master’s degree student in Digital Forensics and Cybersecurity concentrating in Risk, Policy and Compliance.  “Overall, it was an opportunity to help me become better prepared for my future in the workplace.” Sameeha Liton, a sophomore double majoring in Computer Science and Anthropology, noted, “I learned so much from Professor Turetsky and all the other professionals at the competition. This competition really opened my eyes up to how important an interdisciplinary perspective is for global politics.”

Team member Austin Mueke, a Ph.D. student in Information Science, noted the relevance of the competition to his professional development. “My interest in joining this competition was driven by my interest in privacy management and governance as a registered member of the International Association of Privacy Professionals," Mueke said. “By participating in this competition, I enhanced my information analysis skills and ability to distill key and salient arguments when reviewing documents. These are transferrable skills which will help me in my studies and future professional life.”

Professor Turetsky summarized well the dedication and benefits to the team. “Our team worked hard and did a good job determining and presenting their recommendations," Turetksy said. "I'm proud of how our faculty prepared the team. They learned a lot and sharpened their skills over the stages of the competition.”