UAlbany ‘Cyber Danes’ Compete in Global Strategy Challenge

Zoom screenshot of UAlbany's "Cyber Danes"
UAlbany's "Cyber Danes" virtually competed against students across the globe last month.

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 30, 2021) – An interdisciplinary mix of UAlbany students known as the “Cyber Danes” competed last month in a global strategy challenge that tested their ability to respond to cyber threats.

The Atlantic Council’s “Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge” is designed to provide student teams, of up to four members, with a deeper understanding of the policy and strategy challenges associated with management of a cyber crisis. It challenges them to respond to a fictional, but realistic scenario, analyzing the threat it poses to national, international and private-sector interests, and providing recommendations on the best course of action to mitigate the crisis.

Since its launch in Washington, D.C., in 2012, Cyber 9/12 has expanded its reach globally, with regional challenges hosted annually across the United States, as well as in England, Switzerland, Australia and France.

Under the mentorship of College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity (CEHC) professor of practice David Turetsky and Elisabeth Dubois, a PhD student in Information Science, several teams of UAlbany students have competed in previous competitions, both in person and, more recently, virtually during the pandemic.

A UAlbany team of all-female students competed remotely in summer 2020, through a competition based in Geneva, Switzerland.

The ‘Cyber Danes’ this semester were balanced by gender and diverse in age and ethnicity. The team included a first-generation student, non-traditional student and Latinx student. All four were undergraduates.

“Teams at Cyber 9/12 tend to be mostly represented by students from prestigious private colleges and law programs,” added Dubois, a 2020 UAlbany MBA graduate. “The strength of our team was instead in its diversity, reflective of UAlbany’s student body, and true to its mission as one of the nation’s leading public research institutions. The students complemented and supported each other well.”

“I am very proud of our team,” added Turetsky. “This competition requires students to connect events, understand the strategic landscape, and fashion an effective strategy. It takes hard work and creative thinking and our students performed well.”   

Screenshot of Cyber 9/12 semifinalists.
UAlbany's Cyber Danes advanced to the semifinals.

November’s Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge was hosted virtually by Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. The two-day event featured 32 teams, including several from outside of the U.S. 

The scenario focused on the international space sector, such as satellites and other space-based infrastructure that are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Each team was given a briefing packet about two weeks prior to the competition and required to present a short analysis of the issues and outline options and recommendations to a distinguished panel of judges that represented the U.S. National Security Council. Teams that advanced on the first day received a new intelligence report with a more complex and evolving scenario.

UAlbany’s Cyber Danes were the only team from a public institution among the 16 semifinalists.

“I am a double major in Political Science and Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybersecurity. This competition was an excellent opportunity to combine my interests and test what I’m learning in the classroom against as a real-world scenario,” said Brianna Bace, a junior in Rockefeller College’s combined BA/MPA program. “We had to think on our feet and quickly prepare to respond to whatever questions the judges had for us. It was both a challenging and rewarding experience.”

“It was an honor to represent UAlbany with my teammates,” added Joseph Burnetter, a freshman at CEHC. “This experience was both competitive and rewarding. It was also a great opportunity to network with people in several different fields of study. I plan on competing again in the future.”

Other team members included Nicholas Gormally, a junior at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Skylar Aviles, a senior at CEHC.