President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition


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Established in 2019, the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition is a national cyber event aiming to identify, challenge, and reward the best cybersecurity talent in the federal workforce. Held annually, the President’s Cup consists of individual and team challenges focusing on areas across the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity (NICE Framework)

Competitors will face an array of challenges that require an extensive skill set to complete. The President’s Cup was created in response to Executive Order 13870: America’s Cybersecurity Workforce

2020 President's Cup Coverage

The second annual President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition concluded on February 25, 2021. 

The competition began in August 2020 and was split into a teams competition and two separate tracks for the individual competition, one focused on incident response and forensic analysis and the other focused on vulnerability exploration analysis. Over 1,400 participants and nearly 250 teams competed in this year's competition. Held virtually this year, the finals featured the top 10 competitors from each individual track and the top five teams. In the finals the teams competed in two rounds held on separate days. During the first day of finals, teams were matched against a variety of challenges in a Capture the Flag format. On the second day teams faced a "Save the World" scenario in a virtual environment built just for this year's competition. The cumulative score over the two days determined the winning team. The second day of the teams competition was broadcast live and the video is available below.  

2019 President's Cup Coverage

The first annual President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition wrapped up December 13, 2019.  The competition began in September and drew more than 1,000 individuals and 200 teams.  After two qualifying rounds, 10 individual finalists and five team finalists came to the Washington, D.C. area for the final round at the CISA Cybersecurity Lab.  The President’s Cup is designed to highlight the extraordinary cybersecurity talent in the federal government, and to promote careers in the field.  

The five teams were given a series of challenges to solve on the first day, followed by a virtual escape room on the second day, with the winner determined by a combined score from the two days.  The winning team consisted of Major Josh Rykowski, U.S. Army Cyber Command; Chief Warrant Officer Phillip Smith, U.S. Army 781st Military Intelligence Brigade; Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Koontz, U.S. Army, Defense Information Systems Agency; Sergeant First Class Zachary McElroy, U.S. Army Cyber Protection Brigade; and Staff Sergeant Matthew Cundari, U.S. Army Cyber Protection Brigade. 

Individuals were given ten challenges to solve over an eight-hour period, testing different technical and security skills.  Sears Schulz, a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, finished first in the individual competition, solving four challenges.  Cadet Schulz is a senior at the Academy and hopes to attend graduate school to study cybersecurity. 

President’s Cup Timeline

Information about the 2021 President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition will be posted here when announced later this year.

Registration

Information for registration in the 2021 President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition will be posted here when announced later this year.

Participation in the President’s Cup is limited to employees of the United States Federal Government executive departments and agencies, uniformed service members, and drilling members of the United States military. Government contractors are not permitted to participate.

Participants can compete as an individual, on a team of up to five members, or both as an individual and a member of a team. All team members must belong to the same Government department or uniformed service.

Participants must register using a “.gov/.mil” email address.

Competition Details

The competition consists of three rounds, each increasingly difficult. The challenges are real-world scenarios where participants will apply technical skills to solve a problem or complete a task. Challenges are mapped to Tasks and Work Roles from the NICE Framework and categories listed in Executive Order 13870.

Both individuals and teams compete in each of the three rounds. This year, there are two tracks available within the Individuals competition. Individuals can choose to participate in one or both tracks based on their interest.

The 2020 President's Cup Team Competition will consist of tasks drawn from the following eight in-demand NICE Framework work roles: Cyber Defense Incident Responder, Cyber Defense Forensics Analyst, Cyber Defense Infrastructure Support Specialist, Cyber Defense Analyst, Exploitation Analyst, Vulnerability Assessment Analyst, Software Developer, and Network Operations Specialist. Track A NICE Work Roles: (Primary) Cyber Defense Incident Responder, Cyber Defense Forensics Analyst, (Secondary) Cyber Defense Infrastructure Support Specialist, Cyber Defense Analyst Track B NICE Work Roles: (Primary) Exploitation Analyst, Vulnerability Assessment Analyst, (Secondary) Software Developer, Threat/Warning Analyst

The first qualification round is open to all participants -- Those who succeed will be invited to compete in the next round. The second qualification round will downsize the number of competitors through increasingly difficult challenges. The top five teams and ten individuals in each track will compete in the final Championship Round.

Please see below for information about the three rounds:

Round 1: Teams

  • Teams access remotely via supported web browser.
  • The top team from each Department, as well as top 20% of Teams overall by score, are invited to compete in Round 2
  • Teams will have 8 hours to solve as many challenges as they can.

Round 1: Individuals

  • Individuals access remotely via supported web browser.
  • Top 100 scores in each track advance to Round 2. There are no tie-breakers; all tied for 100th place will be invited to continue.
  • Both tracks qualifiers to be held simultaneously – competitors can participate in either or both.
  • Individuals will have 4 hours per track to solve as many challenges as they can.

Round 2: Teams

  • Same team members as Round 1 – access remotely via supported web browser
  • Higher points and harder challenges.
  • Score cut-off determines the five teams who advance to the Championship Round.
  • Teams will have 8 hours to solve as many challenges as they can.

Round 2: Individuals

  • Individuals access remotely via supported web browser.
  • Higher points and harder challenges.
  • Score cut-off determines the 10 individuals from each track who advance to the Championship Round.
  • Both tracks qualifiers to be held simultaneously – competitors can participate in either or both, if invited to Round 2.
  • Individuals will have 4 hours per track to solve as many challenges as they can.

Championship Round: Teams

  • Same team members as Rounds 1 and 2.
  • REMOTE two-day event.
  • First day consists of challenges similar to qualifier rounds.
  • Second day consists of virtual scenario-based challenge, a unique twist on last year’s “Escape Room” format. More details to come.
  • Cumulative score between both days determine the President’s Cup team first, second, and third place.

Championship Round: Individuals

  • REMOTE one-day event.
  • Challenge-based format similar to qualifier rounds.
  • First, second and third place individual winners determined by final leaderboard scores.
  • There will be separate championship round for Individuals Track A and Individuals Track B.

Incentives and Awards

Each Department and Agency is responsible for providing awards to their participants.

Support and Contact Information

To ask a question, report a problem, or provide other feedback on the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition, contact us at: prescup-support@sei.cmu.edu or call (412) 268-3054.

Please include as much detail as possible such as the specific challenge, system element(s) involved, and any error messages you may have received.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below you will find some commonly asked questions and answers to help you with the President’s Cup. If you can’t find the answer here, please contact us.

1. Will I need any special software or applications to participate in the President’s Cup?

No. All that is needed for the first two qualification rounds is a modern web browser and your registered account. Supported browsers are: Chrome, Firefox and Edge or later.

2. I saw that the Championship Round is an in-person, three-day event. Where is the Championship Round held?

Determination will be made in the coming months if a 2021 final round will be held on location within the CISA Cybersecurity Division facility in Arlington, VA. If held on location, agencies will be responsible for travel of their personnel if they qualify.

3. My agency wants to enter two teams in Round 1. Is that possible?

Yes. A department or agency can enter more than one team in the competition.

4. One of my team members dropped out after Round 1. Can I replace them with someone else for Round 2?

No. Once a team is established, members cannot be added. You have the option to compete without that team member.

5. When does registration for the competition start?

Registration information for the 2021 President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition will be posted here when announced later this year. 

6. It is mentioned that the competition challenges will be mapped to the NICE Framework. Where can I get more information on the NICE Framework?

This one-page overview is a good place to start. This video, NICE Framework 101, is a more detailed introduction to the NICE Framework website. See also our supporting materials below.

7. I’m eligible to participate in the President’s Cup, but I don’t have a team. Can I participate as an individual?

Yes. See Competition Details above. Participants can compete either as part of a team or as an individual or both. Round 1 is open to any and all Federal Executive Branch cybersecurity professionals.

8. I’m a detailee and I want to participate. Which organization do I participate with – my original agency or my detailed agency? 

Detailees to a specific agency can participate on a team for their detailed agency or their home agency subject to the approval of both their home agency and detail supervisor, including agreement on which agency will be responsible for awards.

9. Can I participate on more than one team at a time?

No. You can only be a team member on one team.

10. I’m a government contractor and I want to participate. Am I eligible?

No. Government contractors cannot participate in the President's Cup.

President’s Cup Supporting Materials

Review the supporting materials and resources below to help prepare for the President’s Cup. Many of these resources are mentioned above and were referenced in the planning stages of the President’s Cup timeline.

https://presidentscup.cisa.gov/

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