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Marymount University CyberSaints Win "Most Creative Policy" Award at Cyber Competition

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Marymount CyberSaints, students in the university’s undergraduate and graduate information technology/cybersecurity programs, recently competed in the Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge and won the award for the “Most Creative Policy Response Alternative.” Marymount’s four-person team was led by Brian Gallagher and included Darryl Andrews, Stephen Boyce, and E. Robert Premo.

In today’s world, cyber attacks on private, public, and government networks are reported almost daily, but often with very little context on what has happened or what to do in response. The Atlantic Council’s Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge is about “the day after.”  Students from 24 participating universities from around the nation and the world took part in the competition held at American University in Washington, D.C.
The teams were presented a hypothetical scenario in which the U.S. financial systems have been compromised due to a major cyber attack, allegedly by North Korea. The challenge to the student competitors was to evaluate the damage, analyze the ongoing threat, review policy options, and recommend an appropriate response.  

Stephen Boyce, a Marymount senior pursuing the B.S./M.S. in Cybersecurity, said, “It was as if we were playing the roles of national security advisors tasked with coming up with policy alternatives.” He added, “For the qualifying round, all of the teams presented their plans to judges, who are leaders in the cyber defense field. These judges then selected the teams to go forward to the semifinals.  Marymount was not only a semifinalist, but one of five teams singled out for an award.”

Boyce explained, “The judges liked the measured response that we advocated. We did not suggest a military response because the scenario didn’t completely confirm that North Korea was responsible. So you can’t really attack, if you don’t know for sure who’s responsible. Instead, we proposed a hybrid approach. It included a diplomatic response that also advocated for immediate collaboration among the affected financial institutions and the U.S. government, in order to assess and mitigate the damage to the system and to secure it from another attack.”

Looking more long term, Boyce stated, “We strongly argued for an international cyber-governance strategy that would commit governments and private/public organizations to share information and enforce collective retaliation against cyber attackers.”

For the semifinals, updates were added to the scenario, simulating the rapidly changing circumstances that would happen in a real-life situation. In the changed scenario, diplomatic efforts did not work, and it was confirmed that North Korea was responsible. Along with most other teams, Marymount’s policy recommendations did evolve to include a military response. In the end, top honors went to the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade, which was made up of students from National Intelligence University, Eastern Michigan, and Georgetown.

Dr. Diane Murphy, the CyberSaints’ coach and chair of Marymount’s Department of Information Technology and Management Science, praised her students, saying, “I’m so proud of the Marymount team. It was our first time in this type of competition, and we were up against very prestigious universities that have been in the field for a long time. Winning the award for the most innovative response was a huge accomplishment!”

Photo Caption: The Marymount University CyberSaints Receive Award at Atlanatic Council Ceremony- Left to Right: E.Robert Premo, graduate certificate in Computer Security; Darryl Andrews, M.S in Information Technology with a Cybersecurity concentraton; Jason Thelen, Atlantic Council, Diane Murphy, CyberSaints coach and MU IT chair, Brian Gallagher, M.S. in Cybersecurity; and Stephen Boyce, B.S./M.S. in Cybersecurity