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On July 21, 2020, the Department of Energy (DOE) opened registration for the 2020 CyberForce Competition™, the sixth iteration of the Department’s collegiate-level cyber defense competition designed to inspire and develop the next generation of energy sector cybersecurity professionals.

The competition has historically invited teams from colleges and universities nationwide to compete in-person at their nearest participating National Laboratory, but given the current global health crisis, DOE is taking a new approach to ensure the safety of participants, volunteers, and National Lab staff. The 2020 CyberForce Competition will be held on November 14 completely in a virtual environment, with individual competitors rather than teams representing their respective academic institutions.

“This year’s virtual competition continues the momentum of and impacts from our ground-breaking cybersecurity contest,” said Suresh Sunderrajan, Associate Laboratory Director for the Energy and Global Security directorate at Argonne National Laboratory, which manages the competition on behalf of DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). “The shift helps us better meet the Department of Energy’s goal of growing the pipeline of next-generation cybersecurity experts.”

Though the format will be different, the competition’s premise remains the same: competitors will defend cyber systems of simulated critical infrastructure against threats modeled on those faced by the energy sector today. In the past, simulated critical infrastructure has encompassed generation facilities, distribution systems, data centers, and more. This year’s unique scenario will be announced in detail in the coming month.

“In 2020’s CyberForce, DOE will provide students appreciable ways to test and grow their technical skills,” Alexander Gates, Senior Advisor for DOE CESER, said. “From mapping performances to measurable standards so competitors can quantify their strengths, as CyberForce does using National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education standards, to offering virtual interactions with seasoned industry practitioners, 2020’s competition will support the personal growth of participants today and beyond.”

In 2016, DOE established the CyberForce Competition in recognition of the urgent need to increase awareness of energy sector cybersecurity as a career path, as the U.S. grapples with an unmet demand in the cybersecurity workforce. As stated in the President’s May 2019 Executive Order on America’s Cybersecurity Workforce, a superior cyber workforce is “a strategic asset that protects the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life.” This is especially true in the energy sector, where adversaries seek to breach control systems with the intent to leverage the ability to hold our nation at risk for strategic gain.

Alongside DOE CESER, the competition is co-funded by the National Nuclear Security Administration. Under the leadership of Argonne National Laboratory, National Labs co-hosting this year’s event include Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratory.

Registration is open until October 2 at Up to 400 students attending accredited institutions will be selected to participate by random lottery.