Cybersecurity educationUtah State University’s Seth Manesse Wins First Individual CyberForce Competition

Published 27 November 2020

After a tough, day-long contest, Seth Manesse from Utah State University won the sixth CyberForce Competition. Each CyberForce Competition presents a real-world scenario in which participants must defend cyber-physical infrastructure against threats modeled on those faced by the energy sector today. The 2020 scenario involved a wind energy company in charge of over 20,000 megawatts of electricity generation that has been experiencing abnormal network activity.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Seth Manesse of Utah State University as the national winner of its sixth annual CyberForce Competition, held on 14 November. The event challenged 201 individual entrants from 36 U.S. states to compete in a realistic all-day cybersecurity defense exercise.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette applauded the competitors, as well as everyone involved in the competition, ​“The students demonstrated exceptional problem-solving skills and excelled at both defending and sustaining operations of their systems. Thank you to all who contributed to making our first-ever virtual CyberForce a huge success!”

“CyberForce competitors are our Nation’s next generation of cyber defenders,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes. “These students may one day work on the front lines defending our critical energy infrastructure — that’s why we challenge them through attacks by top cyber professionals.”

Each CyberForce Competition presents a real-world scenario in which participants must defend cyber-physical infrastructure against threats modeled on those faced by the energy sector today. The 2020 scenario involved a wind energy company in charge of over 20,000 megawatts of electricity generation that has been experiencing abnormal network activity.

“The American cybersecurity workforce is facing a gap in talent, and this competition is an exciting, engaging part of helping to fill that gap,” said  Nick Andersen, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER). “Every year, we see incredibly promising students competing in the CyberForce Competition, and this year was no exception.”

DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, which hosted the first-ever CyberForce in 2016, managed the virtual competition on behalf of CESER. Also helping to oversee this year’s event were Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratory.

“Though this year’s competition was held virtually, it lost nothing in terms of suspense and impressive performances,” said Amanda Joyce, CyberForce Competition director and cybersecurity analysis group lead at Argonne. “The students who accepted the challenge of competing as individuals, rather than in teams as in

CybatiWorks, and ISACA.

Winners of the 2020 CyberForce Competition are:

·  First place: Seth Manesse, Utah State University

·  Second place: Michael Roberts, University of Central Florida

·  Third place: Alexander Nead-Work, Oregon State University

·  Fourth place: Anna Andler, DePaul University

·  Fifth place: Sears Schulz, Carnegie Mellon University

For more information visit the CyberForce Competition website.