2020 Competition Rules

Competition Mission

The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge is designed to offer students, across a wide range of academic disciplines, a better understanding of the policy challenges associated with cyber conflict. Part interactive learning experience and part competitive scenario exercise, the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge gives students interested in cyber conflict and policy an opportunity to interact with expert mentors, judges, and cyber professionals while developing valuable skills in policy analysis and presentation.

Student teams will be challenged to respond to an evolving scenario involving a major cyber-attack and analyze the threat it poses to state, military, and private sector interests. Teams will be judged based on the quality of their policy responses, their decision-making processes, and their oral presentation to a panel of judges. Along the way, teams will work with coaches at their home institution to develop their policy skills and feedback from expert panels of judges will ensure that all participants have an opportunity to improve their skills, as well as networking opportunities during the competition.

Importance of the Rules

All participants must be familiar with the rules before participating in the event. Because teams will be evaluated based on a combination of written and oral tasks, a thorough understanding of the rules is important to success.

Competition Contact

For any questions about the competition, please contact the competition director, Danielle Murad​ at ​dm3529@columbia.edu​.

Rule 1. Format

The Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge consists of a cyber-attack scenario that evolves over the course of the exercise, prompting teams to modify their policy priorities and recommendations as part of successive oral presentations.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's competition will be held entirely through Zoom.

Qualifying Round: REPORT

Before the competition, teams will write and submit a brief exploring and analyzing the key issues and implications related to the cyber incident described in the scenario materials. The length of the brief is limited to one double-sided page in length — i.e. two page sides, double spaced that can be printed on a single piece of paper.

During the competition and as part of the Qualifying Round, an oral policy brief will be presented and must be accompanied by a “decision document” handed to the judges at the beginning of the competition round (see Rule 8 below).

Please see the document titled “Oral Brief Instructions” for a detailed explanation of the bracketed format.

Semi-Final Round: RESPOND

The semi-final round, held in the morning on day two, will give advancing teams the opportunity to respond to a new intelligence report that alters the original scenario. Teams will receive the new intelligence report when advancing teams are announced at the conclusion of day one. The format will follow that of the first day of competition. Please review the second scenario document carefully for deliverables and guidance.

Final Round: REACT

The final round, held in the afternoon on day two involves a spontaneous reaction to an intelligence report that further alters the original scenario. Teams will have to respond to questions from the panel of judges with only little preparation, testing their ability to analyze information as a team and synthesize a response on the spot. Judges will deliver a final evaluation, and winners will be selected based on the final round scores.

Rule 2. Registration

After all registration materials have been received, teams selected to compete will receivecompetitionmaterials. ​Anychangesinregistrationstatusmustbereceived before October 23rd, 2020.

Rule 3. Eligibility

All students currently enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, professional, or law program on the date of the registration deadline are eligible to compete. There is no explicit major, coursework, or prior experience in cyber conflict necessary to compete, but successful applicants will have a strong link between cyber conflict policy and their current academic interest.

Rule 4. Team Composition

Teams may be composed of three or four competitors. There are no requirements for team composition based on the majors or education level of team members. Each team must also recruit a faculty member to act as their team coach and mentor. While coaches are not required to take part in the competition event, their participation is necessary to ensure that all teams have access to assistance in crafting their responses.

Rule 5. Pre-competition Preparation

Background information on the competition scenario for the Qualifying Round will be distributed with all teams after participants have completed registration and their participation in the competition is confirmed. For the Qualifying Round of the scenario exercise (see Rule 7), teams will prepare both written and oral policy briefs based on a response to the initial scenario intelligence report. The written policy brief will be due one week prior to the competition. The oral policy brief will be presented at the competition as part of the Qualifying Round and must be accompanied by a “decision document” handed to the judges at the beginning of the competition round (see Rule 8 below). Teams are also required to find a faculty member or industry professional to serve as a coach who can help review and develop student policy briefs.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event will take place entirely online through Zoom. Participants should ensure they have an internet-capable device that is able to support video and audio on Zoom.

Rule 6. Team Selection and Notification

Selected teams will be notified via e-mail of their invitation to the competition after their registration has been reviewed. Participating teams will then receive the first intelligence scenario packet.

Rule 7. The Scenario Exercise

The competition will focus on a single cyber-attack scenario described through various intelligence reports. The exercise encompasses tasks, both written and oral, that challenge students to respond to the political, economic, and security challenges created by the evolving cyberattack scenario. At all stages of the competition, scenario information and tasks will be distributed in a manner that ensures all teams have an equal chance to prepare.

Rule 8. Structure

The competition will focus on a single cyber-attack scenario described through various intelligence reports. The exercise encompasses tasks, both written and oral, that challenge students to respond to the political, economic, and security problems.

Qualifying Round

Teams will be provided with a detailed scenario background packet that sets the scene for the fictional cyber-attack. Teams will also receive three tasks to prepare before the competition event.

● Written Cyber Policy Brief

-Teams will write a policy brief exploring the challenges faced by actors related to the cyber incident described in the scenario materials. The brief must also recommend appropriate actions and policy responses for the actors involved. The brief is limited to ​one double-sided page in length -- i.e. two page sides, double spaced that can be printed on a single piece of paper.

-This brief must be submitted as per email instructions by 11:59 p.m. October 25, 2020

● Oral Cyber Policy Brief

-Please refer to the document titled “Oral Brief Instructions” for guidance.

● Decision Document

-Teams will also be required to submit a “decision document” accompanying their oral presentation at the beginning of the competition round. The “decision document” will be a prepared form, a maximum of ​one double-sided page in length-- i.e. two page sides, double spaced that can be printed on a single piece of paper, outlining the team’s policy response alternatives, decision process, and recommendations.

Semi-Final Round

After the advancing teams are announced, participants will receive another intelligence report. This intelligence report will describe some change in, or escalation of, the original scenario and entail new problems for the actors involved.

● Oral Policy Brief

-Please refer to the document titled “Oral Brief Instructions” for guidance.

● Decision Document

-Teams will also be required to submit a second “decision document” accompanying their oral presentation at the beginning of the semi-final competition round. The “decision document” will be a prepared form, a maximum of ​one single-sided page in length, outlining the team’s decision process and recommendations.

Final Round

After the advancing teams are announced, participants will receive the final intelligence report detailing further changes to the scenario and will be provided with a very short amount of time to use the new information to revise their policy responses.

● Oral Policy Brief

- One at a time, teams will present a 10 minute presentation of their reaction regarding further changes to the scenario and their policy recommendations, followed by 10 minutes of questions from the judges. ​This round will not have the head-to-head format.

Rule 9. Scoring and Team Advancement

Qualifying Round

○ Teams will go head-to-head in this round and will advance based on their Qualifying Score. This score will incorporate both policy brief score and presentation score.

■ Policy Brief Score: Used to structure the head-to-head brackets for the first day of the competition.

■ Presentation Score: Averaged score from the judging panel assessing teams’ oral brief and decision document.

Semi-Final Round

○ Teams will compete for the highest score from their panel of judges.

○ The top 3 teams will advance to the Finals.

Final Round

○ Teams will compete for the highest score from their panel of judges.

Rule 10. Permissible Assistance and Cheating

Before the competition, teams are encouraged to seek outside help to develop their policy briefs. Teams are expected to rely on their coaches in particular to help develop and revise their policy ideas for the competition.

During competition events, when teams are presenting or answering judge questions, no outside assistance is allowed for teams. However, teams may confer with their coaches during the breaks between rounds and stages. While participants will be using personal devices to present on Zoom and take notes, ​it is not permitted to use devices for external research and communications during the competition rounds.

Cheating during the competition will not be tolerated and will result in the immediate disqualification of a team. All teams are expected to comply by the rigorous standards of academic honesty in place at their home institutions. Any team suspected of cheating may be subject to immediate disqualification. The home institutions of disqualified teams will also be notified of the disqualification.

Rule 11. Judges

Each round of the competition will be judged by a panel of three to five cyber policy experts. To standardize scoring and encourage consensus, all judges will score the teams based on a common grading scorecard in accordance with Rule 14. Judges may vary between sessions and rounds subject to their availability.

Rule 12. Observers, Media, and Broadcasting

A limited number of observers may be present at the event. Every effort will be taken to ensure that they do not disturb or assist any of the participating teams in the competition.

The NYC Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge reserves the right to partner with the media to provide live coverage of the event via broadcast or internet livestream. By competing, participants agree to be photographed, recorded and have their names and affiliations disclosed. Additionally, members of the press may be present to cover the event in person and are required to identify themselves when interacting with participants, coaches and judges. All participants in the event and observers in the event are expected to conduct themselves in a responsible and professional manner.

Unless stated otherwise, all proceedings from the event; including the scenario, keynote, panel discussion, competitor and judge statements, and networking socials are under the ​Chatham House Rule​.

Event organizers should be contacted for any and all clarifications.

Rule 13. Timekeeping

Competition staff will manage a clock to keep track of time limits for the presentations. Teams will be kept advised of the time using a “green-yellow-red” system of cards. At the five-minute mark a staff member will display a green card to the team; at the one-minute mark a staff member will display a yellow card; and at the expiration of time, a staff member will display a red card. A penalty will be assessed for teams exceeding the time limit.

Rule 14. Team Evaluation and Scoring

All teams will be evaluated based on five main dimensions of their responses: ​understanding of cyber policy; identification of key issues; policy response option - analysis and selected option; structure and communication; and originality and creativity​. These dimensions will be scored based on a common grading scorecard and instructions shared by all the judges. The resulting numerical scores will be used to determine the winners of each round.

At the conclusion of each round, teams will be provided specific, detailed feedback on strengths and areas of improvement for their policy and presentation skills. Grading scorecards and guidelines will be distributed to all teams in advance of the competition.

Rule 15. Elimination

In the event a team is eliminated after the first round, they are invited to participate in a second opportunity to brief the judges on the first round receiving additional feedback by the judges. The top teams in this round will receive a prize. Eliminated teams are also welcome to attend the rest of the competition as observers. Eliminated or not, all teams are welcome and encouraged to take part in the networking functions, speeches, and other events accompanying the event.

Please note that eliminated teams are still eligible for some of the prizes and awards to be offered (see Rule 16).

Rule 16. Prizes and Awards

Judges will nominate teams for each of the team awards listed below. Team awards will be announced at the Qualifying Awards Reception. The location of this event is to be determined, and additional information regarding this reception will be disseminated prior to the competition.

● Best Oral Presentation – Judges should nominate teams who show an advanced mastery of the oral briefing. Judges are free to nominate multiple teams

● Best Decision Document – Judges should nominate teams who submit a precise and professional decision document that clearly presents the team’s recommendations and justifications. Judges are free to nominate multiple teams

● Most Creative Policy Response Alternative – Judges should nominate teams who show nuanced and plausible policy response alternatives that also show a high degree of creativity and originality. Judges are free to nominate multiple teams

● Best Teamwork – Judges should nominate teams who show exceptional teamwork in their presentations.

Rule 17. Notification of Rule Changes

The above rules are provided for planning purposes only. The New York Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge reserves the right to alter the rules based on logistical and technical considerations. In the event of changes to the competition rules, a new version of this document will be posted and distributed to teams before the start of the competition. All participants must be familiar with the rules before participating in the competition. As teams will be evaluated based on a combination of written and oral tasks, a thorough understanding of the rules is important to success.

Rule 18. Competition Ethics and Scoring Impartiality

Competition judges are experts in their field and will render scores based upon content and delivery as pursuant to the specifics as outlined in the foregoing Competition Rules. Once scores are issued for each team, they will be passed to a representative of The Atlantic Council who will be attending this competition as an impartial enumerator. At no time during the competition will Columbia University students have authority or control over competition scoring.