On June 15, the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), held the first student competition devoted to high-level policy recommendations for day-after responses to a major cyber attack.

Held at American University’s School of International Service, the competition brought together more than sixty-five students—from undergraduates to PhD candidates—organized into nineteen teams and representing seventeen universities. In addition, twenty-one experts drawn from the top ranks of the US Department of Defense, US Department of State, White House, and leading cyber security firms participated as judges.

“The most impressive part of the Atlantic Council-SAIC simulation was the level of expertise of participating teams,” said student participant Nino Ghvinadze of the University of Kentucky. “It was a very good mix of tech and policy students. I believe I learned as much, if not more, from interacting with the other participants as I did preparing for the competition.” 

Student teams were provided a simulated intelligence report detailing an ongoing cyber attack on the American energy sector, on which they based a series of policy recommendations for the National Security Council. Prior to the competition, teams submitted written policy briefs based on this initial intelligence report. The simulated report was then changed to include an escalation, giving the teams only a few hours to assess the new situation and prepare another oral brief evaluating the possible policy options.

“It was SAIC’s honor to sponsor the first Cyber 9/12 Student challenge focused on global cyber policy response to a serious cyber security breach,” said Julie Taylor, SAIC senior vice president for cybersecurity operations. “Students presented creative and well thought-out strategies that pulled multiple levers to address the complexity of the exercise. This exercise fully appreciated the complex nature of maneuvering in the cyber domain, which requires technical expertise as well, knowledge of the possible global economic, diplomatic, environmental and social effects.” 

Michael Hayden, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and former director of the National Security Agency, delivered the competition keynote and participated in a dialogue with Jason Healey, director of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, and the student competitors.

Awards were presented by Rosemary Wenchel, deputy assistant secretary for cyber security coordination at the US Department of Homeland Security; Jeff Moss, vice president and chief security officer at ICANN;  Julie Taylor, SAIC; and Hannah Pitts, executive director, Cyber Conflict Studies Association (CCSA).


First Place: Camille François and Shawn Lonergan – Columbia University

Second Place: Kathryn Hostetler, Jonathan C. Murad, Billy E. Pope Jr., and Joseph Roman – Harvard Kennedy School

Third Place: Colin Carroll, Rocky Cole, Axelle Klincke, Jeff Rogg – Georgetown University

Best Written Brief: Evann Smith, Josephine Wolff, and William Young – Mixed team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard

Best Oral Brief: William Fisher – Johns Hopkins University

Best Teamwork: Eli Ginsberg, Latisha Russell, Marie Scholz, and Laura Wacker – Mixed team from American University and MIT

Most Creative Policy Alternative: Lauren Pearce, W. Owen Redwood, Clark Wood, and Douglas Wussler – Florida State University

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