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NETL Hosts DOE Competition to Promote Workforce Development and Energy Cybersecurity

NETL welcomed approximately 100 students, mentors and volunteers to the Lab’s Morgantown, West Virginia, site Nov. 16 for the 2019 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) CyberForce Competition™. Sponsored by DOE’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response and coordinated by Argonne National Laboratory, the competition leverages the people, research and capabilities of DOE’s national laboratory complex to inspire and develop the next generation of energy sector cybersecurity professionals who will help defend and bolster the nation’s critical energy infrastructure and ensure our energy security.

NETL was among 10 DOE laboratories hosting regional CyberForce events. University of Maryland, Baltimore County was the national winner, while Baldwin Wallace University from Berea Ohio. won first place among the teams competing regionally at NETL. A total of 106 teams competed nationwide.

Teams are composed of four to six students ranging from undergraduate, graduate and Ph.D. levels, from U.S. colleges and universities across the country. Schools participating in NETL’s regional competition include Baldwin Wallace University (Berea, Ohio), Pennsylvania State University (State College, Pa.), the Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, N.Y.), the University of Maryland Global Campus (Adelphi, Md.), Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.) and West Virginia University (Morgantown, W.Va.)

The competition structure includes players from four teams: The Blue Team is comprised of university students, who defend their network infrastructure from the Red Team and maintain system usability for the Green Team. Red Team members have a technical background in cyber and play the role of the hackers; members of the Green Team have basic computer skills and volunteer to play the role of a typical business users; and White Team members are industry volunteers and national laboratory employees who support the teams with setup and judge the competition.

This year’s CyberForce festivities kicked off Nov. 15 with an industry fair at West Virginia University’s Advanced Engineering Research Building. Representatives from the energy and cybersecurity industries were on hand to network and explore career options with interested students.

The competition followed Nov. 16, with opening remarks by NETL Director Brian Anderson, Ph.D. The winning team members within NETL’s region received medals Saturday; the national winners will receive trophies from Argonne at a later date.

“NETL is committed to inspire and educate the next generation of researchers, engineers and scientists who will one day work to boost the nation’s energy independence through technological solutions,” said Director Brian J. Anderson, Ph.D. “That includes cybersecurity. We were honored to be one of the host sites for this year’s CyberForce Competition, which combines critical workforce development with energy security-focused education and outreach to prepare students for careers in this vital field.”

The security, prosperity and well-being of American citizens depends on reliable, resilient, and secure energy infrastructure. As the nation's energy infrastructure faces more frequent and sophisticated cyber threats, all while becoming more dependent on digital controls and communications, building a highly skilled cybersecurity workforce to defend it is a national priority. The CyberForce Competition helps future cybersecurity professionals in the energy sector hone their skills during interactive and real-world scenarios as they defend their team’s infrastructure from realistic threats faced in the energy sector today.

DOE’s competition is unique in that asks team to defend a realistic cyber-physical infrastructure, which includes simulated industrial control system components, real-world anomalies and constraints, and interaction with users of the systems. The 2019 scenarios presented teams with the challenge of not only defending one of four systems — an energy company’s solar generation facility, electric substation, data center or manufacturing plant — but also communicating with the other three infrastructures to monitor and maintain the integrity of the system as a whole. Click here to learn more about the competition.

NETL’s mission is to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations. The CyberForce event provided a unique opportunity to showcase the Lab’s top-notch facilities, world-class staff and groundbreaking work to ensure the availability of clean, affordable and reliable energy that meets America’s needs.