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FAQs

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GENERAL  
  1. What is CyberPatriot?
  2. Why was CyberPatriot created?
  3. What is the history behind CyberPatriot?
  4. Who sponsors CyberPatriot?
  5. What are the goals of CyberPatriot?
  6. What are the key objectives of CyberPatriot?
  7. What does the program intentionally NOT do?
  8. What is the basic structure of the program?
  9. Why are there two divisions in the competition?
  10. How many teams will be allowed to compete in each division?
  11. When will registration for new teams close?
  12. What does it cost for a team to enter and compete in CyberPatriot?
  13. Where can I go for more information or to ask a specific questions?
ELIGIBILITY  
  1. Who is eligible to compete?
  2. Is this strictly a team competition or may individuals compete on their own?
  3. May I form my own team, and do I need a coach?
  4. Is there a minimum number to form a team?
  5. May I compete again every year that I am eligible?
  6. May more than one team per High School, JROTC, or CAP unit participate?
  7. How does the team limitation apply to the home school team situation?
  8. May a JROTC/CAP student compete in the Open Division?
  9. May two or more entities combine to form a single team if there are insufficient students interested in the single schools/unit?
  10. May a non-JROTC/CAP student compete in the All-Service Division?
COACHES  
  1. Why do you use the term “coach” rather than “teacher”?
  2. What does: “access to minor students in a way that protects them and respects parental prerogatives” mean?
  3. What does “ensuring the integrity of the competition during the online competition periods” mean?
  4. Must the Coach possess extensive computer and/or system administrator skills?
  5. May a coach act in that role for more than one team?
  6. How can I prepare my team for competition?
MENTORS (& TECHNICAL ADVISORS)  
  1. Who may serve as a mentor?
  2. How much interaction with the team is expected from the mentor or technical advisor?
  3. How do I volunteer to act as a mentor or technical advisor?
TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS  
  1. How are the online qualification rounds conducted?
  2. Are competitors required to provide any of their own equipment to compete in the qualification rounds or the in-person competitions?
  3. What are the equipment and software requirements for the competition?
  4. The minimum requirements seem fairly modest; do teams with more capable systems have an advantage?
  5. When will teams be provided the operating systems/software to be used in the competition (what we must train to)?
  6. Will students participating in the competition be allowed to access the internet as a resource? Will the student be allowed to upload security tools or third party applications?
  7. How soon after the competition rounds will teams be notified of results?
  8. At any level of the competition, will the competitors be able to “attack the attackers”?
STUDENTS  
  1. Will any competitors be able to receive scholarships, mentoring or job counseling?
  2. Is there something for the competitors to do after they are eliminated from a qualification round?
  3. Is there any reason to stay involved after the competition?
  4. Is there any other way I can continue to learn from the other CyberPatriot participants?
GENERAL  
  1. What is CyberPatriot?
    CyberPatriot is the national high school cyber defense competition created by the Air Force Association (AFA) to excite, educate, and motivate the next generation of cyber defenders and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) graduates our nation needs.   

     
  2. Why was CyberPatriot created?
    Perhaps the top national security concern in our world today is cybersecurity. The biggest challenge in achieving cybersecurity is not technological – it is finding enough technically educated people – the human component. There is a serious shortage of U.S. citizens graduating with degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and mathematics-computer science is the discipline with the largest projected shortfalls. National competition programs like CyberPatriot provide students the opportunity to gain hands-on, practical knowledge that prepares them for post-secondary education and jobs in the STEM career fields. CyberPatriot is designed to answer a critical national need by inspiring high school students to pursue a career of service to their nation in this vital career field.   
     
  3. What is the history behind CyberPatriot?
    In 2008 the idea of a national high school cyber defense competition, as a way to have positive national impact, was adopted by AFA. A three-phase approach was developed, with Phase I as a proof of concept demonstration and competition at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida, in February 2009. The second phase of the program was limited to Air Force Junior ROTC and Civil Air Patrol teams. Online training and qualification competitions were held during fall 2009 with nearly 200 teams from 44 states competing for eight slots to the in-person Championship in February 2010, in Orlando, Florida. The final phase of the developmental program, full national deployment, is underway now, open to any high school, JROTC classes of all services, and CAP units.   
     
  4. Who sponsors CyberPatriot?
    Full national deployment has been made possible by a generous grant from Northrop Grumman, who has committed significant funding for the initiative. The program began as a joint cooperative effort by AFA and two founding partners. The Center for Infrastructure Assurance and Security (CIAS) at the University of Texas at San Antonio, creator of the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, provided expertise, the training/education component of the program, and competition support from the program’s inception. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) provided the platform for the competition with their patent-pending commercial cyber defense trainer, CyberNEXS, as well as personnel and expertise to conduct training and the online and in-person competitions. Strategic partners General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Microsoft, and Raytheon have also pledged significant multiyear support for the program. Air Force Junior ROTC and Civil Air Patrol provided the initial competitors for the demonstration/pilot phases of the initiative, and the Air Force Research Laboratory and other Air Force agencies provided support and guidance. This unique combination of commercial, government, and nonprofit expertise allowed rapid expansion of the program.   
     
  5. What are the goals of CyberPatriot?
    CyberPatriot is designed to be a program that: 1) is accessible to any high school student; 2) provides a seamless path from high school, through college, to the workforce; and 3) benefits all CyberPatriot partners and our nation!   
     
  6. What are the key objectives of CyberPatriot?
    CyberPatriot aims to: 1) reach the largest number of students possible to the direct benefit of the competitors, but also to increase the awareness of cybersecurity in the general population; 2) deliver a basic cybersecurity educational component to the widest audience possible; 3) provide a competition experience that is exciting and fun to motivate achievement in cybersecurity and other STEM disciplines; 4) enhance leadership, communication, and cooperation skills with a team competition format; and 5) attract under-represented segments of the population and women to technical careers.   
     
  7. What does the program intentionally NOT do?
    CyberPatriot is NOT: 1) a military recruitment program (the national need for cybersecurity is much broader and larger than strictly military requirements); 2) a training program for hackers (CyberPatriot is strictly a defensive program that promotes ethical and safe use of the internet); 3) a large government program that will “fix” our cyber vulnerabilities (CyberPatriot is a public-private collaboration with most resources provided by the nonprofit and commercial sectors, and while the program will positively impact our cybersecurity, it is only one segment of what must become a serious national effort to address our vulnerabilities).   
     
  8. What is the basic structure of the program?
    There are two parallel but distinct competitions in “Open” and “All-Service” Divisions. Coach (the responsible adult) registration begins in the late spring to allow preparation over the summer. The educational component and qualification rounds of the competition are delivered online at the teams’ home locations from September to early January. The Commander-in-Chief’s Cup (All Service Division) and the President’s Cup (Open Division) Championships are conducted in mid March 2012 in at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.   
     
  9. Why are there two divisions in the competition?
    When CyberPatriot began, the Air Force Association reached out through its connections to CAP and AFJROTC units to find students willing to try this new endeavor. The All Service Division has grown from that initial association. The Open division was created to give all high school age students the opportunity to participate in the CyberPatriot competition.   
     
  10. How many teams will be allowed to compete in each division?
    Up to 1,250 teams may compete in each division.   
     
  11. When will registration for new teams close?
    Registration will close on 8 October 2011 or earlier if the limit of 1,250 teams in a particular division is reached. A waiting list will be maintained for both divisions in the case of registration closeout prior to 8 October 2011.   

     
  12. What does it cost for a team to enter and compete in CyberPatriot?
    There is an entry fee of $350 per team. This entry fee covers all direct costs, including transportation, food, and lodging for teams qualifying for the in-person competitions. The fee also provides for access to licenses for Microsoft Academic Alliance Developer software package and participant kits (shirts, certificates, etc.) for up to ten competitors.                                                                         **NOTE: Schools that have a CyberPatriot team registered in the All Service Division can register a team in the Open Division and have their registration fee waived.     
    JROTC/CAP only: The entry fee is waived for those JROTC and CAP units whose parent organizations have agreed to provide travel funding (all except Army JROTC).   
     
  13. Where can I go for more information or to ask a specific question?
    AFA’s CyberPatriot website (www.uscyberpatriot.org) will have links to the most current information, and you may also contact us at info@uscyberpatriot.org 

   


 

ELIGIBILITY   
  1. Who is eligible to compete?
    Competitors must be at least 13 years old and in grades 9-12 (or equivalent if home schooled/in a school that does not make this distinction) as of September 2011. JROTC/CAP only: All team members in the All-Service Division must be currently enrolled in a JROTC or CAP program before participating in any competition round.   
     
  2. Is this strictly a team competition or may individuals compete on their own?
    This is a team competition with no fewer than two, or more than five, registered team members participating in any particular competition round. All students are encouraged to participate in the education and training leading up to the competition, and each team is encouraged to designate up to five registered alternates to accomplish the full training and participate in qualification rounds as necessary. Up to five primary competitors will be allowed to compete in each qualification round and in-person competition, but the specific five individuals competing in any particular round may change at the discretion of the team coach.   
     
  3. May I form my own team, and do I need a coach?
    CyberPatriot requires an adult team coach before any students are permitted to register or compete. Coaches must be verified by their school or CAP unit (or in the case of homeschoolers, by a legally recognized agency designated to assist home schooling). Students are free to organize their own teams and recruit verifiable adult supervision, but the adult coach is a nonnegotiable requirement to officially register and compete.   
     
  4. Is there a minimum number to form a team?
    Yes, there must be at least two students to form a team. While two is the minimum number to register a team, as the competition progresses through the online qualification rounds, the number of systems and complexity increases. Teams could compete well with only two members in the initial rounds but would likely be at a competitive disadvantage during the later rounds.   
     
  5. May I compete again every year that I am eligible?
    Yes. As long as you meet the eligibility requirements above in the competition year, you may participate as often as you like.   
     
  6. May more than one team per High School, JROTC, or CAP unit participate?
    Yes, for the 2011-12 school year, High Schools and JROTC/CAP units may field more than one team in their school or unit.    
     
  7. How does the team limitation apply to the home school team situation?
    Home school teams may compete only in the Open Division. Home school teams may include students from traditional high schools, JROTC, or CAP, but no individual may participate as a member of more than one team.   
     
  8. May a JROTC/CAP student compete in the Open Division?
    Yes. CAP or JROTC students may compete as a member on an Open Division team. The entrance fee is not waived for the Open Division team, nor will travel expenses for the individual student be provided by CAP/JROTC for their students participating on an Open Team (AFA will cover all travel expenses for all teams in the Open Division). No individual may participate as a member of more than one team.   
     
  9. May two or more entities combine to form a single team if there are insufficient students interested in the single schools/unit?
    No. All member must be apart of the same school or unit.   
     
  10. May a non-JROTC/CAP student compete in the All Service Division?
    No. Every All-Service Division team member must be enrolled in a CAP or JROTC program.   
     
COACHES  
  1. Why do you use the term “coach” rather than “teacher”?
    CAP or home school teams may have coaches who are not professional high school teachers, but the most important reason for using this term is to highlight the special roles and responsibilities CyberPatriot requires of Team Coaches. Coaches must agree to perform two essential roles beyond team preparation for the competition: 1) providing access to minor students in a way that protects them and respects parental prerogatives; and 2) ensuring the integrity of the competition during the online competition periods. No team may compete in CyberPatriot until there is first a responsible adult willing to perform these functions.   
     
  2. What does: “access to minor students in a way that protects them and respects parental prerogatives” mean?
    We rely on the coach as the initial “gate keeper” for both our contact and that of “mentors or technical advisors” (see also the separately titled section below) with minors. We do get direct e-mail (and sometimes telephonic) contact from minors frequently, but our standard response is: “find an adult coach” (see FAQ E3). The burden this imposes on you as a coach is modest (e.g., obtaining parental consent/release forms via e-mail prior to our allowing minors to register in the Competitor Relationship Management (CRM) system), but it is an important responsibility to which the coach must agree. See CyberPatriot Coaches’ Agreement for a summary of coach expectations.   
     
  3. What does “ensuring the integrity of the competition during the online competition periods” mean?
    This is also a requirement that involves little additional workload but is critical to the credibility of the program. We insist that the coach agree to essentially “switch hats” once the online competition period begins. Right up to STARTEX, the coach and any mentors/technical advisors are expected to prepare the team and offer suggestions and advice; at STARTEX and for the duration of the online competition, we require the coach to ensure the team abides by the competition rules and receives no outside advice. The coach may, of course, continue to provide clarification of rules and permissible actions, but must also ensure that the team receives no external assistance with the competition task.   
     
  4. Must the coach possess extensive computer and/or system administrator skills?
    No. For the Open Division, coaches must be either a teacher employed by the school who can be verified by a school official or a home school teacher who can be verified by a legally recognized agency designated to assist home schooling. In the case of the All Service Division, the coach must be either a JROTC instructor or CAP member. Technical skill is far less important than desire to offer a unique and valuable educational experience to the students. Technical assistance may be obtained from mentors (as discussed below), within the local school or community, and the students themselves have in some cases been their own best teachers.   
     
  5. May a coach act in that role for more than one team?
    No. The coaching responsibilities must be performed by a single responsible adult for each registered team, and that individual may not serve as coach of another team. This policy does not, however, preclude a single individual from serving as coach for one team and assisting in a mentoring or technical advising role for one or more other teams.   
     
  6. How can I prepare my team for competition?
    The primary resource for academic and competition preparation is on the
    website. The site provides the basic information that students need to complete the competition. Regular updates will be made throughout the summer and school year as needed.   
     
MENTORS (& TECHNICAL ADVISORS)   
  1. Who may serve as a mentor?
    Any legal adult who: 1) agrees to abide by the
    CyberPatriot Standards of Conduct; and 2) is accepted by the coach, at his/her sole discretion, may act as a mentor or technical advisor for the team.   
     
  2. How much interaction with the team is expected from the mentor or technical advisor?
    That is a matter for the coach and mentor or technical advisor to determine, but since the coach retains the ultimate responsibility for the relationship, the coach’s decision is determining.   
     
  3. How do I volunteer to act as a mentor or technical advisor?
    Prospective mentors should register at
    www.uscyberpatriot.org  
     
TECHNICAL REQUIREMENTS   
  1. How are the online qualification rounds conducted?
    The online qualification rounds are designed to test each team’s ability to find and remediate vulnerabilities that are pre-configured into a VMware image (called a “Target”). The SAIC CyberNEXS competition platform will be used for these competitions. The teams are assessed points by the CyberNEXS scoring system and feedback on progress is provided in near real time. Each team will start the competition with identically mis-configured system(s). NOTE: VMware image refers to using virtualization technology to capture an entire operating system and resources as a file, which can be replayed (using VMware Player) on a host computer. In other words, one can run a completely different computer system in a container, within the host operating system, that is, on the competitors’ computers.    

     
  2. Are competitors required to provide any of their own equipment to compete in the qualification rounds or the in-person competitions?
    For the online qualification rounds each team will need access to a computer and Internet connectivity (see minimum requirements below). The Internet connection should be at least cable/DSL (not dial-up). For the initial qualification rounds there is a single target (VMware image) that can only be run on a single machine for each team. For the final qualification round, up to three targets will be used, and three machines that meet the minimum requirements are desired. For the in-person competitions, all equipment will be provided, and each team will be able to bring notes, papers, books, etc. No cell phones, personal computers, or PDAs will be allowed in the competition area. Additional specific instructions for both the online and in-person competitions will be provided closer to the actual competition dates.   
     
  3. What are the equipment and software requirements for the competition?
    Please note: The following hardware and software requirements are "MINIMUM" requirements to use the competition VMware images and interact with the competition scoring server. Many teams will have faster and more capable computers but these published specifications are the minimum required. There will be up to three images for a single competition round. As such, we recommend that you have one host computer per competition image to allow students to work on all images at the same time. Hardware Requirements are as follows: 
    • 1 Ghz Intel x86 compatible processor (2 Ghz with virtualization extensions recommended)\
    • 2 GB of RAM
    • 20 GB of free disk space
    • DSL or faster Network connection
    • XGA (1024x768) or higher display (Projector to allow all students to see display recommended)
    • Windows 2000 or later, OS X 10.4.11 or later, Linux 2.4.10/2.6.4 or later
    • ZIP Client capable of handling encrypted ZIP files
      VMware Player (for Windows or Linux), VMware Fusion (for OS X)There will be to three images for a single competition round.  
  4. The minimum requirements seem fairly modest; do teams with more capable systems have an advantage?
    Not really. The online competitions occur within a virtual environment, so as long as the host computer can run the VMware image and has 2GB of RAM, competitors will be competing on a fairly level playing field. Host computer processing speeds and internet connection capacity have little real effect, and the main task of identifying and remediating vulnerabilities is determined largely by participants’ knowledge and skills, not speed of processing.   
     
  5. When will teams be provided the operating systems/software to be used in the competition (what we must train to)?
    The basic operating system and list of critical services will be posted at least one month prior to each of the qualification rounds in a more detailed “Users' Package” describing the applicable competition round.   
     
  6. Will students participating in the competition be allowed to access the internet as a resource? Will the student be allowed to upload security tools or third party applications?
    For the remote qualification rounds, the Targets will have internet access capability and teams may use any tools they desire (NOTE: the Target may not have programmed access to an external storage device, and internet downloads can take time). During the in-person competitions, there will be internet connectivity but no outside electronic devices (flash drives, CD/DVDs, portable hard drives, etc.) are allowed in the competition area.   
     
  7. How soon after the competition rounds will teams be notified of results?
    The teams advancing from each qualification round will be released within four working days of the end of that qualification round. The results of the in-person competitions are presented immediately after the competition during the awards ceremony.   
     
  8. At any level of the competition, will the competitors be able to “attack the attackers”?
    No. This is strictly a defensive competition and any offensive action (attack) by a competitor will result in disqualification. The rationale for this rule is that defensive skills are by far what the nation needs most, but defense is also the harder problem – the defender must protect the entire system or systems; the hacker only needs to find a single hole to cause major damage or disruption of service.   
     
STUDENTS   
  1. Will any competitors be able to receive scholarships, mentoring or job counseling?
    Yes. We are developing opportunities for scholarships, mentoring and internships for competitors who wish to pursue STEM education beyond high school and for those who would like to enter the workforce directly with a technical education. These opportunities will be promulgated through the RSS feeds from the Competitor Relationship Management (CRM) system.   
     
  2. Is there something for the competitors to do after they are eliminated from a qualification round?
    All teams will be able to view announcements of upcoming opportunities, exchange information, and follow the progress of the other teams within the CRM system. We will also continue to provide online training tools and applications to maintain interest and support preparations.   
     
  3. Is there any reason to stay involved after the competition?
    Yes. The CRM system is intended to serve as a sort of “CyberPatriot alumni association” through which the program maintains contact with past participants, acquires feedback and ideas to improve the program, and provides valuable opportunities as you continue your careers. Participants will be kept informed as to what is happening in cyber career fields, document their progress into college and/or the workforce, and receive assistance in finding opportunities that match their skills.   
     
  4. Is there any other way I can continue to learn from the other CyberPatriot participants?
    Yes. The CRM system will incorporate a blog and wiki (still under development) to provide a protected space within which to interact with other program participants. Additionally, a CyberPatriot Facebook Fan Page has been created in order for you to spread the word to your family and friends about your participation in this competition. If you aren’t already on Facebook, you may sign up and become a fan of CyberPatriot at:
    www.facebook.com/CyberPatriot 
Last updated 11 Aug 2011
 
 

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