Department of Energy

University teams to compete in Department of Energy’s 2018 National Cyber Defense Competition

April 3, 2018

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Editor's Note: This was cross-posted from Argonne National Laboratory.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is proud to announce the 29 university teams selected to compete in the third annual Cyber Defense Competition (CDC), taking place April 6–7, 2018. These motivated students, chosen from across the country, will simultaneously compete at three of the Department’s U.S. national laboratories: Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, Illinois); Oak Ridge National Laboratory (Oak Ridge, Tennessee); and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, Washington).

The objectives of the competition support the larger needs of the DOE and national infrastructure. These include developing a workforce of cyber professionals with competencies relevant to the energy sector, raising awareness of the cutting-edge cyber security and critical infrastructure happening in the DOE and national laboratories, and driving innovation in this area through industrial partnerships at all stages of research and development lifecycles.

“Protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from cyber threats is a priority for the Department of Energy. We’re proud to partner with key stakeholders in developing the next generation of a skilled workforce that can safeguard the electric grid,” said Assistant Secretary of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE) Bruce J. Walker. “Our Cyber Defense Competition is a unique program that teaches real-world lessons and closes the cybersecurity capability gap.”

The competition further supports the development of a cyber-enabled workforce by using critical infrastructure-focused scenarios. In these scenarios, the competition adds realistic components — such as cyber-physical infrastructure, lifelike anomalies and constraints, and actual users — to create a unique experience for all competitors. These realistic components, which are unique to the DOE’s competition, test students’ knowledge and skills against challenges cyber professionals address daily.

This year’s scenario focuses on a simulated natural gas computer network, which students will compete to build and defend while maintaining service for their customers (played by volunteers). Teams will be judged using a point-based system; the team with the most points at each laboratory site will be recognized as winners, and an overall national winner will be announced the following day.

“We’re excited to see so many students showing an interest in cybersecurity. Win or lose, these students stand to gain many new skills — including better technical and teamwork skills — plus a greater working knowledge of what it takes to be a cybersecurity professional in the field, which makes it a win for everyone,” said Argonne cybersecurity expert Nate Evans.

Another aspect of the competition is an industry fair that brings together key stakeholders from industry to engage with the high-caliber student talent competing. The fair serves as an entry point for students to network and learn about workforce opportunities, including internships, graduate fellowships and workshops at the DOE and elsewhere.

“Mixing hands-on interactive cybersecurity learning, introductions to experts from the national laboratories, knowledge of critical infrastructure challenges in the United States and a drive to compete is what makes the Cyber Defense Competition so successful in building our future workforce,” said AnneMarie Horowitz, the DOE’s Director of STEM Rising. “STEM-ready students are more important than ever to the future of our national security and innovation in this country. The Cyber Defense Competition is one of many pathways the Department of Energy is developing to prepare our country’s top talent of tomorrow.”

Teams competing in the 2018 DOE Cyber Defense Competition

Argonne National Laboratory
Dakota State University
Indiana University 
Iowa State University 
Kansas State University 
Lewis University 
Mississippi State University 
Northern Illinois University 
Northwestern University 
Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico 
Purdue University 
University of Texas at San Antonio 
University of Central Florida 
University of Houston, College of Technology 
University of Illinois at Chicago 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 
University of Kansas 
University of Massachusetts, Amherst 
University of Pittsburgh

Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Clemson University
Middle Tennessee State University 
University of North Carolina, Charlotte 
University of Memphis 
University of South Alabama 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Columbia Basin University
Highline College
Oregon State University
University of Idaho
Washington State University
Northeastern University

For more information about the competition, visit the DOE Cyber Defense Competition website.

This competition is sponsored by the DOE Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration (ISER) division of OE in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy's Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

Interdisciplinary teams at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory address many of America's most pressing issues in energy, the environment and national security through advances in basic and applied science. Founded in 1965, PNNL employs 4,400 staff and has an annual budget of nearly $1 billion. It is managed and operated by Battelle for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. As the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, the Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information on PNNL, visit the PNNL News Center, or follow PNNL on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

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.