The ‘Cyber Danes’ Virtually Gear Up for International Competition

UAlbany Cyber Danes 2020

UAlbany's "Cyber Danes" are preparing to virtually compete against colleges across the globe next week.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 30, 2020) – A major cyberattack has occurred — how should you respond?

This question is the focus for a team of female UAlbany students who are preparing to virtually compete against colleges across the globe in the Atlantic Council’s upcoming “Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge.”

The Cyber Danes

Cyber 9/12 is a cyber-policy and strategy competition where student teams of up to four members are challenged to develop policy options and recommendations for a fictional cyber catastrophe. The competition began in the United States several years ago and has since expanded globally, with this summer’s competition based in Geneva, Switzerland. It will be hosted online next week due to the pandemic.

UAlbany’s team, called the “Cyber Danes,” is a mix of interdisciplinary students from the College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC), Rockefeller College and School of Business. They are one of only four teams from the United States in the competition, which also includes representation from colleges and law programs in Switzerland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Hungary, France, India and Estonia.

Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge

The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge features student teams from around the globe.  

“The concept behind this competition is that following a major crisis (like 9/11) we must be thinking about our response, especially if it relates to a cyber-crisis,” said Michelle Neira, a junior Digital Forensics major. “Basically, we are given a scenario and judged based on our recommendations. We have to think quickly on our feet.”

“Both [Michelle] and I have previously competed together in Cyber 9/12, but never on a team that is all-female,” said Bariela Capollari, a junior dual major in Political Science and Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. “I really believe in the power of female empowerment. I’m excited to see how that plays out and we can all support each other.”

Going Digital

COVID-19 has forced recent competitions to go 100 percent digital for the first time in its history. Students submit short outlines of their given scenario and then present recommendations to a panel of cyber policy experts via Zoom.

UAlbany’s Cyber Danes, who also include CEHC graduate and now master’s student Evelyn Cuautle Suarez and Reyhan Topal, a Rockefeller College doctoral student, have been meeting weekly to game plan with their coach and mentor David Turetsky, a professor of practice at CEHC, and student manager Elisabeth Dubois, a PhD student in Information Science. Other CEHC professors have also joined for a practice round session.

The students will be responding to a major cyber incident affecting a key component of European critical infrastructure and services.

“As in the real world, these scenarios provide students with a mix of the known and unknown, with high-stakes implications for vital interests, and call on them to analyze the situation, explain plausible response options, and then make and justify a recommendation,” Turetsky said. “I judged these competitions in Washington D.C. before becoming a coach, and I cannot say enough about how much I admire the dedication and hard work of our students who participate and how much I know they learn.”

The competition’s qualifying round will be on Thursday, July 2. Teams that advance will be given a new intelligence report during the semifinal and final rounds on Friday, July 3. You can learn more about the competition here.