International ‘US Cyber Games’ Competition Seeks Next Generation of Cybersecurity Experts

“As the United States seeks to shore up its defenses against cyberattacks, the country is seeking to harness the skills of some of the country’s most promising young minds,” reports the Washington Post, “using a model that mirrors competitive video gaming, also known as esports.”

Though it’s a partnership between the federal government, academia and the private sector, it’s being run by Katzcy, a northern Virginia-based digital marketing firm, the Post reports: U.S. Cyber Games, a project founded in April and funded by the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education, has assembled a team of 25 Americans, ages 18 to 26, who will compete against other countries in the inaugural International Cybersecurity Challenge, scheduled to be held in Greece in June 2022.

The cyber games consist of two broad formats, with the competitions organized and promoted to appeal to a generation raised on video gaming. The goal is to identify and train candidates for careers in cybersecurity. There are king-of-the-hill-type games where one team tries to break into a network while the other team tries to defend it. There are also capture-the-flag-type games where teams must complete a series of puzzles that follow the basic tenets of cybersecurity programs, like decrypting an encrypted file or analyzing secret network traffic…

The U.S. cyber team’s head coach, retired Lt. Col. TJ O’Connor who served as a communications support officer with special forces, noted the unique platform presented by cybersecurity competitions. Unlike other forms of computer science education, O’Connor said, staying up to date on the latest developments in cybersecurity is difficult, with hackers constantly iterating on and developing new tactics to break through cyberdefenses. “Understanding the most likely attack is one thing you gain through Cyber Games. It’s an attack-based curriculum, and then you can plan the most appropriate strategies when they occur,” said O’Connor, who helped create and now chairs Florida Tech’s cybersecurity program.