Cyber 9/12 Eligibility and FAQs

Eligibility and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Q: Who can compete?

A: Students currently enrolled in an undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, professional, or law program, including students in military academies, 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 be able to draw from their academic interest to formulate cyber policy.

Q: I'm interested in competing but I can't find teammates. What should I do?

A: If you attend Columbia University, please refer to this sign-up sheet to find teammates. For those outside of Columbia University, we recommend that you consult with your institution's relevant faculty and student organizations to find teammates.

Q: Are there any requirements on team composition? Do teams have to be from one department within a school?

A: Each team must include four students. Teams that register less than four competitors may be considered at the discretion of the organizers, space permitting. We strongly encourage schools to reach across departments to diversify their team’s specialties.

Each team should 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 highly encouraged to ensure that all teams have access to assistance in crafting their responses.

Q: How do I register?

A: To be considered for the competition, interested teams must submit all registration materials, including all team information, by the registration deadline of October 9th. After all registration materials have been received, teams selected to compete will receive invitations and competition materials.

Q: Can all registered teams take part in the competition?

A: Columbia University and the Atlantic Council reserve the right to limit the number of teams competing in the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. Registration will include a short essay requirement. Should we surpass our capacity of 28 teams, these questions will be used to select those that will participate.

Q: How is the competition structured?

A: Two-three weeks before the competition, all registered teams receive Intelligence Report I, setting the stage for the simulated cyberattack. The teams are given approximately two weeks to prepare their decision documents. The decision document due date, approximately one week before the presentation, as well as submission instructions will be included in the first intelligence packet.

The two days of the competition are divided into qualifying, semifinal, and final rounds. Teams advancing to the semifinal round will be announced at an evening reception, where they receive Intelligence Report II, further adjusting the simulated scenario.

In the morning of the second day of the competition, semifinalist teams present their modified policy recommendations, based on the evolved scenario. Teams advancing to the final round receive Intelligence Report III and very limited time to adjust their recommendations. In the afternoon of the second day, finalist teams present on a stage to a panel of celebrity judges. The competition concludes with an awards reception.

Q: Do teams have to attend both days of the competition?

A: All teams that wish to participate for the second and third rounds of the competition must be present both days. We encourage all teams to stay for the second day of competition to support their fellow students and take advantage of the programming that will run on Saturday.

Q: Is there a participant fee for the competition?

A: There is no fee associated with competing in Cyber 9/12.

Q: What is the format of the competition?

A: During the qualifying round on day one, teams will deliver a ten minute oral presentation based on the decision document, followed by a ten minute Q&A round with the judges. Judges will then provide feedback and score the students based on their performances. The final score of the qualifying round will be a combination of the oral presentation score and the decision document score. At the qualifying awards reception, advancing teams will be given an intelligence report that further alters the original scenario.

During the semi-final round, advancing teams will deliver a ten minute oral presentation based on a new intelligence report received at the conclusion of day one, followed by ten minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges. Teams are given limited time to respond to the altered scenario, testing their ability to analyze information as a team and synthesize a response with limited preparation.

After the teams advancing to the final round are announced, the finalist teams will receive the third and final intelligence report, detailing further changes to the scenario. The teams are provided with a very short amount of time to use the new information to revise their policy responses. The finalists will deliver a ten minute oral presentation, followed by ten minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges.

*Due to COVID-19, this will all be taking place virtually (for more information, see below).

Q: What tasks are part of the competition?

A: The competition encompasses tasks, both written and oral, that challenge students to respond to the political, economic, and security problems created by the evolving cyberattack scenario.

• Oral Cyber Policy Brief: Teams will be given ten minutes to present their policy recommendations, followed by ten minutes to answer direct questions from a panel of judges. More detailed instructions will be distributed to the teams selected for the competition.

• Decision Document: Teams will also be required to submit a “decision document” accompanying their oral presentation at the beginning of the semi-final competition round. The “decision document” will be two single-sided pages (one double-sided page) in length, outlining the team’s decision-making process and recommendations.

Q: Is there a required format for the oral briefing?

A: There is no requirement for the structure or format of presentations. Presentations are limited to ten minutes. Each team must decide how to best conduct their briefing.

Q: Can presentation aids be used for the oral presentations?

A: No presentation aids (e.g., PowerPoint, props, and posters) are permitted. Teams will not be allowed to use electronic devices such as cellular phones and computers during the competition events, when teams are presenting or answering judge questions. However, teams may use electronic devices such as cellular phones and computers during the breaks between rounds. Paper notes are highly encouraged at all times during the competition.

Q: Can teams use charts in the written brief?

A: No visuals can be used in the written brief.

Q: What sources can I use to prepare my responses? How should these sources be cited?

A: Sources and citations are not required for the decision document. If used, they will count toward the total page count.

Q: What prizes will be awarded?

A: There will be awards for the top performing teams based on score, as well as team awards for best written brief, best oral presentation, best teamwork, and most creative policy response alternative.

Virtual Competition Rounds

Q: How do I log in to the virtual sessions?

A: Your team will be sent an invitation to your round’s Zoom conference the day before the event using the emails provided during registration

Q: How will I know where to log in, and where is the schedule?

A: We will send out links to Zoom conferences, along with an agenda, the day before the event.

Q: How are the virtual sessions being run?

A: Virtual sessions will be run very close to the traditional competition structure and rules. Each zoom video conference will be managed by a timekeeper. This timekeeper will ensure that each team and judge logs on to the conference line and will manage the round.

At the beginning of the round, decision documents will be shared by the timekeeper via Zoom and judges will have 2 minutes to review the documents prior to the Zoom conference beginning. Teams will have 10 minutes to present their briefing and 10 minutes for Q&A. Judges will be asked to mute themselves for the 10–minute briefing session. Judges will then be invited to a digital breakout room and will have 5 minutes to discuss scores and fill out their scorecards via JotForm.

After the scoring is over, judges will have 15 minutes to provide feedback to the team. A 10-minute break is scheduled before the start of the next round. Each round has been allotted several minutes of transition time for technical difficulties and troubleshooting.

Q: What do I need to log into a virtual session?

A: Your team will need a computer (recommended), tablet, or smartphone with a webcam, microphone, and speaker or headphones. Your team will be provided with a link to the Zoom conference for each competition round your team is scheduled for. If you have any questions about the software, please see Zoom’s internal guide here.

Q: How are decision documents handled?

A: Please email decision documents to by noon on Friday, October 9th. At the start of the round, timekeepers will share the decision documents with judges and give them 2 minutes to review.

Q: Will my team get scored the same way on Zoom as in person?

A: Yes, the rules of the competition remain the same, including the rubric for scoring.

Q: How will my team receive Intel Pack 2 and Pack 3?

A: We will send out the intelligence packs via email to all qualifying teams.

Q: How will the final round be run?

A: The final round will be run identically to the traditional final round format except that each the only participants allowed in the competition Zoom conference will be final round judges and the assigned team.

Finalists will not able to watch the presentations of other teams in real time. Final rounds will be recorded and published on the Atlantic Council website after the final round ends.


Q: What is Zoom?

A: Zoom is a free video conferencing application. We will be using it to host the competition remotely.

Q: Do I need to pay for Zoom to participate?

A: No.

Q: Do I need a Zoom account?

A: You do not have to have an account BUT we recommend that you do and download the application to participate in the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge. Please use your real name to register so we can track participation. A free Zoom account is all that is necessary to participate.

Q: What if I don’t have Zoom?

A: Zoom is available for download online. You can also access Zoom conferences through a browser without downloading any software or registering.

Q: How do I use Zoom on my Mac? Windows? Linux Machine?

A: Follow the instructions here and here to get started. Please use the same email you registered with for your Zoom to sign up.

Q: Can I use Zoom on my mobile device?

A: Yes, but we recommend that you use a computer or tablet.

Q: Can each member of my team call into the Zoom conference line independently for our competition round?

A: Yes, but again, we recommend that if a team is located in the same room, they use one computer to minimize disruption and feedback.

Q: Can other teams listen-in to my team’s session?

A: Zoom links to competition sessions are team specific—only your team and your judges will have access to a session and sessions will be locked once all participants have joined.

Staff will be monitoring all sessions. Any team member or coach in a session they are not assigned to will be removed and disqualified.


Q: What if my team loses internet connection or is disconnected during the competition?

A: If your team experiences a loss of internet connection, we recommend following Zoom’s troubleshooting steps listed here. Please remain in contact with your timekeeper. If your team is unable to rejoin the Zoom conference – please use one of the several dial-in lines included in the Zoom invitation.

Q: What if there is an audio echo or other audio feedback issue?

A: There are three possible causes for audio malfunction during a meeting:

  • A participant has both the computer and telephone audio active.A participant computer and telephone speakers are too close together.
  • A participant computer and telephone speakers are too close together.
  • Multiple participant computers with active audio are in the same room.

If this is the case, please disconnect the computer’s audio from other devices, and leave the Zoom conference on one computer. To avoid audio feedback issues, we recommend each team use one computer to compete.

Q: What if I am unable to use a video conference, can my team still participate?

A: Zoom has dial-in lines associated with each Zoom conference event and you are able to call directly using any landline or mobile phone. We do not recommend choosing voice only lines unless absolutely necessary. Please reach out to us at if you have any concerns.


Q: Will there be keynotes or any networking activity remotely?

A: Keynotes will continue as reflected on our agenda and will be broadcast with links to be shared with competitors the day before the event. There will be several networking sessions on Day 2 with experts available for conversation and to answer questions about careers, jobs, and their industry.

We also encourage competitors and judges to join the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge Alumni Group on LinkedIn where we will post job vacancies and internship opportunities.

Q: Will the Atlantic Council cover the cost of hotels or flights which are non-refundable?

A: Unfortunately, no. Due to the unforeseen circumstances and development of the novel coronavirus, the Atlantic Council will not be able to cover the cost of flights or lodging.

Q: If we still wish to travel and attend the event at Columbia University, can we do so?

A: No, the event will no longer be held in-person at Columbia University.

Q: Will there be an in-person option if we will be in NYC?

A: No, there will be no in person events this year in an effort to protect the health and well-being of competition participants.

Q: Will anything be happening in person?

A: No, see above.

Q: Where can I learn more about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19)?

A: We would recommend you go look at the CDC’s website for additional information.

*Should you have any additional questions please contact Danielle Murad at