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U.S. Department of Energy plans sixth CyberForce Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its sixth CyberForce Competition™, which challenges college students to compete in a realistic cybersecurity defense exercise, will take place virtually on Nov. 14, 2020.

Argonne National Laboratory, which hosted the first CyberForce Competition in 2016, manages the competition on behalf of DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). Other laboratories joining this year are Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratory.

About 400 students from accredited U.S. institutions will be selected to participate by random lottery. The competition supports participants’ personal growth by offering virtual interactions with seasoned industry practitioners and mapping performance to measurable standards so competitors can quantify their strengths, using National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education standards.

Given the virtual format, individuals will represent their respective academic institutions this year. As in previous events, competitors will defend cyber systems of simulated critical infrastructure against threats modeled on those faced by the energy sector today. This year’s scenario involves a wind energy company in charge of over 20,000 MW of electricity generation that has been experiencing abnormal network activity.

“The U.S. energy sector is under constant threat of cyberattacks,” said Mark Wesley Menezes, Deputy Secretary of Energy. “The CyberForce Competition is unique in that it trains the next generation of cyber professionals on defending the energy infrastructure while also maintaining usability of the systems.”

CyberForce is part of DOE CESER’s efforts to support the President’s Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce. The American cybersecurity workforce must grow 62% — or nearly 500,000 professionals — to fill the current skills gap, according to the trade organization (ISC)2.

Alongside DOE CESER, the competition is co-funded by DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, and Office of Science.