U.S. critical energy infrastructure faces more cyber-attacks with greater levels of sophistication. DOE’s CyberForce Program hosts competitions such as the Conquer the Hill Reign Edition to help develop a pipeline of skilled cyber defenders in order to counteract this rising cyber threat.
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) and Argonne National Lab (ANL) announced the winner of the CyberForce® Conquer the Hill Competition - Reign Edition, a virtual, flag based mission that tested participants’ cyber knowledge, skills, and abilities. Over 40 students faced 24 cyber challenges in their own time-based escape room. Kyle Sferrazza from Northeastern University was the first to escape with the most points and was named the 2021 Reign Edition, “Conqueror of the Hill.”
Reign is the second of two new mini competitions added to the CyberForce Program this year, with University of Central Florida student Cameron Whitehead winning the first Conquer the Hill Competition - Adventurer Edition, in July 2021.
This year, CyberForce expanded to provide students with more opportunities to learn about energy sector cybersecurity topics and test their cyber skills. In addition to the two new Conquer the Hill competitions and the annual CyberForce Competition, the Program also introduced a monthly webinar series, a virtual career fair, and an online workforce portal where students can evaluate their cyber skills, check job boards, and learn about upcoming events and training.
“The new Conquer the Hill competitions reflect the critical importance that DOE puts on closing the gap of unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the U.S. energy sector," said Puesh Kumar, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of CESER. "The more programs and real-life experiences we can offer students, the more likely they are to pursue roles that help us protect our energy systems from growing cyber threats.”
The expanded CyberForce Program allows students to engage throughout the year with cyber experts no matter where they live or where they are in their careers, from incoming freshmen to graduate students. The expansion also demonstrates DOE’s commitment to the Biden Administration’s focus on building a pipeline of skilled cyber defenders, in order to fill the nearly 500,000 currently unfilled cybersecurity jobs in the United States.
“By diversifying our competitions, we’ve been able to grow the CyberForce Program and accommodate the many different learning methods of students who are interested in cybersecurity careers,” said Amanda Joyce, CyberForce Program director and cybersecurity analysis group lead at ANL. “That pool of talent is growing in interest every year through CyberForce.”
Students’ next opportunity to compete will be in the 2021 flagship CyberForce Competition, which will take place virtually on November 13th. The interactive, scenario-based event, where participants test their cyber defense skills in real time – this year’s scenario will challenge student teams to harden and secure a hydropower company and its recently acquired subsidiary. Student teams can apply to compete until October 1st.
All participating students are also invited to attend CyberForce’s first Virtual Career Fair, which will be held on November 16th. Industry partners include Microsoft, Cavalry, Exelon, American Public Power Association, ComEd, and more.
CyberForce® began as a cyber defense competition in 2016 with eight competing teams and grew to more than one hundred teams in 2019, before going virtual in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today the CyberForce Program offers many opportunities for the next generation of cyber professionals to advance their cyber skills. To learn more, visit https://cyberforcecompetition.com/