Source: ORNL | Release | November 30, 2018

DOE’s CyberForce Competition helps prepare college students for careers in cybersecurity through events hosted by national laboratories.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory will help prepare college students for careers in cybersecurity as a host of the Department of Energy’s fourth collegiate CyberForce Competition. The Dec. 1 event brings together college teams across the country to compete at seven of the Department’s national laboratories.

The competition challenges students to respond to a scenario based on a real-world challenge of vital importance: protecting the nation’s energy-related critical infrastructure from cyber threat.

Student teams will engage in interactive, energy-focused scenario activities centered on cybersecurity methods, practices, strategy, policy, and ethics all while defending their network against a team of “hackers,” played by security professionals and government representatives.

“Our ultimate goal for this competition is workforce development, so we include scenarios they will face in the real world,” said ORNL cybersecurity research scientist and competition lead Jeff Nichols. “The teams will be defending a three-node supercomputer and oil pipeline control system. These systems are using standard control system components, software and protocols. They will further be challenged to detect and stop threats inside their firewalls, which is a vital skill needed by our cybersecurity workforce.”

Colleges participating at the ORNL event include Clemson University; Middle Georgia State University; Radford University; University of North Carolina, Charlotte; University of Memphis; University of Tennessee, Knoxville; University of Tennessee, Chattanooga; University of South Alabama; Saint John’s University; Tennessee Tech University; University of Alabama, Huntsville; and University of Florida.

The competition is co-funded by the DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response, Office of Electricity, Office of Science, Office of the Chief Information Officer, and the National Nuclear Security Administration. The event aims to address the cybersecurity capability gap and increase awareness around energy critical infrastructure.

In this year’s scenario, students will compete to defend a simulated oil transportation network, power delivery system and high performance computing system; previous scenarios have focused on water and power delivery systems. The competition incorporates components to add to the realism of this scenario, including a barrage of lifelike anomalies and real-world constraints, as well as volunteer users who grade teams on the usability and reliability of their delivery services.

A winner will be announced at each laboratory site, and a national winner will be announced following the event.

The CyberForce Competition is one of many ways DOE promotes the development of a workforce of cyber professionals with competencies relevant to the energy sector.

For more information about the competition, visit

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