Cybersecurity educationCyberForce Program Now offering Year-Round Cyber Defense Events

Published 20 July 2021

The cybersecurity field is facing a shortfall of 1.8 million professionals by 2022. To fill that skills gap, Argonne, in partnership with DOE, launched CyberForce in 2016 as an annual competition that has challenged college teams to build and defend a simulated energy infrastructure from cyber attacks. DOE is now expanding its CyberForce program and offers more ways for students to test their cybersecurity skills.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) CyberForce program is expanding this year to include more cyber competitions, webinars, and career resources. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, which leads the CyberForce program, says the program aims to inspire and develop the next generation of energy sector cybersecurity experts.

The cybersecurity field is facing a shortfall of 1.8 million professionals by 2022. To fill that skills gap, Argonne, in partnership with DOE, launched CyberForce in 2016 as an annual competition that has challenged college teams to build and defend a simulated energy infrastructure from cyber attacks. Hosted at Argonne and several other national labs over five years, the competition went virtual in 2020.

In 2021, students have many more opportunities to learn about cybersecurity topics and compete within the CyberForce program. In addition to the annual competition this November, CyberForce is holding a series of virtual challenges, monthly webinars and a virtual career fair. Also this fall, a new workforce portal will offer current and aspiring cybersecurity experts a chance to better understand their skills, check job boards and learn about upcoming events and training.

These offerings will accommodate growing interest in CyberForce, which started with eight competing teams in 2016 and grew to more than 100 in 2020. The expansion will also allow students to engage with the CyberForce program no matter where they live or where they are in their career.

“This expanded format for CyberForce has something for everyone, whether it’s first-year college students who are just beginning to explore cybersecurity or graduating seniors embarking on new careers,” said Amanda Joyce, CyberForce program director and cybersecurity analysis group lead at Argonne.

A new series of competitions, “Conquer the Hill,” has begun with the Adventurer edition. Adventurer is a virtual, individual mission that will test participants’ cyber knowledge, skills and abilities through the use of tasks — individual challenges that students would likely see in their careers.

Joyce’s team hosted the Adventurer competition from July 16-18; Cameron Whitehead from the University of Central Florida won the contest.     

On July 19, registration opened for the next chapter of Conquer the Hill, the Reign Edition. Reign will involve a skirmish-based mission where participants will attempt to dominate the throne in a virtual arena. Conquer the Hill not only offers students more chances to compete, it opens the field to individuals who may not have access to a collegiate team.

“The CyberForce program continues to inspire the next generation of energy cybersecurity professionals,” said Puesh Kumar, acting principal deputy assistant secretary of DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER), which leads the program. “The expansion of the program reflects DOE’s commitment to developing the highly skilled cyber workforce we need to defend our nation’s critical energy infrastructure from cyber threats and attacks.”

As was the case last year, the students will be able to compete virtually in this November’s main CyberForce Competition. Every competition centers around an interactive, scenario-based event, where participants get to test their cyber defense skills in real time. Last year, the scenario involved a wind energy company in charge of over 20,000 megawatts of electricity generation that has been experiencing abnormal network activity.