White House celebrates cyber contests to attract young talent


It’s summertime, and you know what that means: coding and network infrastructure!

Well, maybe not for most kids, but at Wednesday’s Cybersecurity Competitions Workshop, students and participants in national cyber contests gathered to celebrate cyber education at the White House.

Hosted by the Office of Science and Technology Policy, the event included volunteers, organizers and sponsors from three previous security competitions.

CyberPatriot VIII, one of those competitions in April, featured more than 3,300 student teams of all ages competing online to fix mock vulnerabilities. The University of Central Florida took home that contest’s top honor for the third year in a row.

The workshop Wednesday also hosted winners from the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, where challengers competed to best protect a network infrastructure, and the U.S. Cyber Challenge, during which participants played a “cyber version of capture-the-flag.”

The event featured speaker Alex Levinson, an Uber information security specialist who participated in the competitions back in 2010 and 2011. Ed Rhyne, a program manager at the Homeland Security Advanced Research Projects Agency within the Department of Homeland Security, also spoke about how these competitive cyber competitions have benefited his department’s emerging cybersecurity defenses.

For the government, contests like these are more than just fun and games. During a time when there are not enough cyber experts in the workforce to meet the high demand, OSTP hopes workshops like these encourage students to get involved in the field and consider it as a career path.

“Competitions complement these efforts by increasing awareness of potential cybersecurity professionals and providing opportunities for experiential learning at all skill levels,” a White House blog post says.

Contests can promote higher diversity for the talent pool, too. While the community is male-dominated, the blog said CyberPatriot increased its female participation from 6 percent to 23 percent.

“Given the Nation’s cybersecurity workforce needs, we cannot afford to miss out on any dimension of the talent pool,” the post says. “Competitions give students from all geographic locations and walks of life opportunities for awareness about cybersecurity as a vocation and an introduction to the subject matter.”

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