“It was a very tough cyber-policy challenge”
This year, for the first time a joint EPFL-ETHZ team has taken part in the Geneva Center for Security Policy’s Cyber Strategy Challenge, successfully managing a realistically simulated international cyber security crisis.
All is well in the small fictional African country of Nistria, despite some geopolitical tensions with neighboring countries. Yes suddenly, GPS communications begin to fail, impacting major mining operations, mobile payments become unreliable and bank runs are starting. Soon, social media misinformation is sky-rocketing and social unrest and military tensions are rising. How to safeguard the population and prevent this crisis ending in tragedy?
This was the scenario created for the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge 2022, in which 30 teams of students from universities around the world had to analyze a simulated cyber incident, develop their policy recommendations and present them in front of high-ranking decision-makers.
Representing EPFL and ETHZ and participating for the first time, team Lémanners made it to the finals, winning overall second place! Before the competition, Boya Wang, who was completing her thesis in the Security and Privacy Engineering Lab (SPRING) in the School of Comupter and Communication Sciences and Elvric Trombert, Francesco Intoci and Lucas Rollet, undertaking a joint EPFL-ETHZ MSc in Cyber Security, were trained by Stefanie Matter from the ETHZ student organization Cyber Group.
During the training, the participants learned about cyber security politics and policy, international cyber law, incident response, and communication and oratory skills. Cyber Group ran all training sessions in a fully hybrid mode, broadcasting live from Zurich to Lausanne, allowing frictionless collaboration between students within Switzerland, and enabling cyber security experts from abroad to join training sessions.
Christian Knabenhans, Cyber Group President, was amazed at the determination and drive of the teams, “It was wonderful to see the students progress and grow throughout the training. We were really proud to see them honing their skills, gaining in confidence and forming tight-knit teams, session after session”.
Together, team Lémanners reflected on the experience of the challenge, “We were thrilled to participate as the first EPFL-ETHZ joint team. It was a wonderful journey with a fantastic coach and unwavering support from the Cyber Group. All of us have technical backgrounds in cybersecurity but most cyber incidents are never only about the technical so it was fun to see other parts of the story: policy, strategy and social impact. The competition was quite intense but we always worked together, supported and trusted each other. It was a pleasure to be part of such a great team.”
Professor Anne-Marie Kermarrec oversees for EPFL the joint EPFL/ETHZ Masters Program in Cyber Security, “As the first EPFL/ETHZ team to participate in this competition this is a great achievement. The EPFL IC faculty gives its warmest congratulations to the Lémanners. We are very proud of you and thank you for your success that reflects highly not only on our faculty but on EPFL and ETHZ as well.”