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Four College Teams to Converge at Berkeley Lab for DOE CyberForce Competition

Event aims to address cybersecurity capability gap and increase awareness around energy infrastructure

Four college teams will square off at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) on Dec. 1 as part of DOE’s fourth collegiate CyberForce Competition. The event aims to address the cybersecurity capability gap and increase awareness around energy critical infrastructure.

The competition is co-funded by the DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, Office of Electricity, Office of Science, Office of the Chief Information Officer, and the National Nuclear Security Administration. It will bring together hundreds of college students from across the country to compete at seven of the Department’s national laboratories.

In the competition, student teams will engage in interactive, energy-focused scenario activities centered on cybersecurity methods, practices, strategy, policy, and ethics – all while defending their network against a team of “hackers” played by security professionals and government representatives. The competition challenges students to respond to a scenario based on a real-world challenge of vital importance: protecting the nation’s energy-related critical infrastructure from cyber threat.

Other participating laboratories include Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Berkeley Lab, which is participating in the competition for the first time, will host four teams: UC Berkeley, UC Davis, Cal State University San Bernardino, and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The teams will participate in Berkeley Lab’s Shyh Wang Hall, home to the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), a DOE Office of Science User Facility. Some 50 volunteers from NERSC and other parts of the lab have signed on to support the event, which begins at 6:30 a.m. PT on Saturday, Dec. 1.

“With the ever-increasing amount of technology that relies on and is accessible via the Internet, cybersecurity has become a high priority for the DOE, and it is critical that we help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to ensure they are prepared to meet this need,” said Horst Simon, Berkeley Lab’s Deputy Director for Research. “We are proud to participate in this year’s Cyberforce Competition and host the four teams from California as they defend their cyber networks from simulated attacks launched by experts in the cyber field.”

Defending a simulated network

Since Argonne first hosted the event in 2016, enthusiasm among academia, industry and government alike has rapidly grown. Since then, the competition has continually expanded, attracting more and more students and sponsors year after year.

In this year’s scenario, students will compete to defend a simulated oil transportation network, power delivery system and high performance computing system; previous scenarios have focused on water and power delivery systems. The competition incorporates components to add to the realism of this scenario, including a barrage of lifelike anomalies and real-world constraints, as well as volunteer users who grade teams on the usability and reliability of their delivery services.

Throughout, teams have the strain of balancing security with usability; they will be judged on how well they maintain both through a points-based system. The team with the most points at the end of the competition will be the winner. A winner will be announced at each laboratory site, and a national winner will be announced following the event.

Developing a workforce of cyber professionals

The CyberForce Competition is one of many ways DOE promotes the development of a workforce of cyber professionals with competencies relevant to the energy sector, and raises awareness of cutting-edge cybersecurity and critical infrastructure innovation happening in the Department and across the national laboratories. Events like this aim to encourage students to consider careers in this high-demand field and help drive growth of the workforce. The competition also aims to help students develop the teamwork and technical skills needed to succeed in future cyber roles.

Past participants have acknowledged the many ways the competition has helped them develop their skills and careers. For some, the competition experience led them to pivot towards a career in cybersecurity, while for others it reinforced their decision to pursue a career in the field and helped them hone their talent.

Corporate sponsors include the Federal Training Partnership, which produces training, technology and military-related events for government and industry, and Microsoft Government Azure, which deliver security and compliance services to U.S. government agencies and their partners.

For more information about the competition, visit cyberforcecompetition.com.

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Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory addresses the world’s most urgent scientific challenges by advancing sustainable energy, protecting human health, creating new materials, and revealing the origin and fate of the universe. Founded in 1931, Berkeley Lab’s scientific expertise has been recognized with 13 Nobel Prizes. The University of California manages Berkeley Lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. For more, visit www.lbl.gov.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

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