120 teams from 105 universities competed to test their cyber defense skills and protect a hydropower company from simulated cyber challenges.

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the University of Central Florida as the national winner of its seventh CyberForce Competition®, held on November 13. The event challenged 120 U.S. college and university teams from 33 states and the District of Columbia to thwart a simulated cyberattack.

“As cyber threats grow and we continue to develop the clean energy grid of the future, recruiting and retaining a highly skilled workforce to protect and defend our nation’s energy systems is critical,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk. “I’m proud of the students who joined us this past weekend to expand their cyber skills and knowledge, while channeling their passion for cybersecurity.” 

The CyberForce Competition is part of DOE's CyberForce® Program, which seeks to inspire and develop the next generation of energy sector cyber defenders. Students can learn and practice skills that will be relevant to a career safeguarding the nation's critical infrastructure, including power plants and other energy facilities.

Each CyberForce Competition centers around an interactive, scenario-based event where participants get to test their cyber defense skills in real time. In this year’s scenario, participants were challenged to harden and secure systems of a hydropower company—along with the systems of one of its recently acquired subsidiaries—against a malicious cyberattack, all while maintaining service for customers.

“This year marked the strongest CyberForce Competition yet,” said Amanda Joyce, CyberForce Program director and cybersecurity analysis group lead at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory. “We continue to work on developing the growing cyber workforce through the CyberForce Program, and every year it amazes me how many student competitors we see return to participate either as a student team member or as a volunteer. It’s great to see that CyberForce really makes a lasting impression.”

The CyberForce Competition is part of the CyberForce Program, and it is managed by DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER), with Argonne National Laboratory as the lead lab providing leadership, planning, and subject matter expertise support. In addition, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories partnered with Argonne to provide technical support.

Winners of the 2021 CyberForce Competition are:

First place: University of Central Florida

Second place: University of California, Santa Cruz

Third place: Pennsylvania State University

The CyberForce Program expanded in 2021, adding two engaging, interactive virtual mini competitions that provide students with more chances to learn about cybersecurity topics and test their skills.

In the Conquer the Hill: Reign Edition competition, held September 18, 2021, Kyle Sferrazza of Northeastern University won the virtual skirmish-based mission that tested participants’ skills with a timed capture-the-flag competition. Cameron Whitehead of the University of Central Florida won the Adventurer Edition competition, the first Conquer the Hill event, held July 18, 2021.

To learn more about the CyberForce Program, visit https://cyberforcecompetition.com/.