CEHC Students Compete in the DC Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge

CEHC Students with Professor David Turetsky at the DC Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge

By Fiona Hernandez

ALBANY, N.Y. (April 18, 2024) - Students from the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) recently competed in the two-day DC Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge at American University's Washington College of Law.

This was the twelfth annual Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge held in Washington, DC on March 15th through the 16th. It was held by the Atlantic Council 's Cyber Statecraft Initiative, in partnership with American University's School of International Service and the Washington College of Law. Four CEHC students comprised the UAlbany "Cyber Danes" team in the DC competition- undergrads Shannon Morgan, Christopher Braccia, Joseph Devito, and PhD student Li Huang.

Forty-three teams comprised of undergraduate and graduate students from educational institutions across the country and the world competed, including from UAlbany, several military academies, universities in many regions of the United States, and countries including Ecuador. The student teams play the role of advisers to the U.S. National Security Council (NSC), called upon to present appropriate policy responses to an emerging multifaceted scenario implicating important national security, cybersecurity, economic, foreign policy, and human rights concerns. The competition judges act as the NSC and pose 10 minutes of questions to the students after hearing the students' 10-minute oral brief that summarizes the situation and presents the students' analysis and recommendations. The students also provide a one-page summary outline to the judges immediately before their oral presentation and submit to another group of judges a two-page situation brief a couple weeks before the competition. The oral presentations at the competition take place over two days. The scenario this time required student teams to engage with criminal cartels' smuggling operations across the U.S.- Mexico border, hacking of certain border management systems, and strategic use of U.S. social media for recruiting and cartel propaganda.

CEHC Students at the DC Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge
CEHC Students at the DC Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge

Several leading cybersecurity policy experts presented talks and programs for the student competitors during breaks from the competition sessions. One highlight for the student competitors was the keynote address delivered by Kemba Walden, the former acting director of the Office of the National Cyber Director ("ONCD") in the White House.

The UAlbany team was coached by CEHC Professor of Practice David Turetsky with the assistance of Elisabeth Dubois, a recent Ph.D. in Information Science at UAlbany. Cybersecurity Department of Chair Ariel Pinto, Assistant Professor Unal Tatar, and Assistant Professor Benjamin Yankson also helped the team prepare by playing judges in a practice round at UAlbany.

The students found the experience in the nation's capital richly beneficial to their personal and professional development.

"This past weekend marked a significant milestone in my academic and professional journey as I participated in my first-ever Cyber 9/12 Strategy Competition in the city of Washington, DC," Joe Devito '24 said. Representing the University at Albany, SUNY, my team and I put in a tremendous amount of preparation and effort to showcase our skills and knowledge in the realm of cybersecurity."

"This experience encouraged me to expand my knowledge and refine my research skills," said Li Huang, a PhD student in Information Science at CEHC. "I have gained wisdom from Professor Turetsky's expertise and have been inspired by the hardworking spirit of Shannon, Joe, and Chris."

"It was a challenging yet rewarding experience, underscoring the importance of effective cybersecurity measures and international cooperation in addressing emerging threats," said Cybersecurity major Christoher Braccia '24 said. "Special commendation goes to my teammates, Joe, Shannon, and Li, whose dedication and hard work were the highlights of the experience."