Snapshots of Brown: Cybersecurity Competition in Washington, D.C.

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Welcome to Snapshots of Brown, your destination for pics of Brown all year long! I’m Celina Stewart, and I’ll be bringing you little photo insights into my third year on Brown’s campus. What’s up this week? Let’s take a look… 

At the time of writing, it is Thursday evening, and I am sitting in a hotel room with my three teammates, waiting for a pizza to arrive, and going over the minute details of a theoretical cyberattack, slated to ‘occur’ in 2015. No, we aren’t part of some crazy club, we’re just part of a crazy group of Brown students willing to travel over the weekend for a cybersecurity competition in the middle of midterms and pre-Spring Break deadlines. So, what are we up to, and what are we competing for?

The Atlantic Council, a security and strategy think-tank in Washington, DC has held this competition, called “Cyber 9/12” for the past several years, and last year, two of my teammates came to DC to compete, and made it to semifinals. Now, a year later, with two new team members (including yours truly), we are attempting to beat the odds and go to finals. Our team is composed of myself (a cybersecurity course Head Teaching Assistant – HTA – and previous cybersecurity intern for the government, future technology think-tank intern), two ‘technical’ CS trained friends (both working for tech-firm Palantir this summer), and a fellow Political Science policy HTA, who focuses on China.

The competition is structured in three rounds, all based on policy responses to the theoretical cybersecurity threat that the Atlantic Council derived several weeks ago. We have already qualified, and tomorrow we will compete to enter the semifinal round. Essentially, each round builds upon a presentation and question session with cybersecurity experts. We are judged by a panel of experts, and if we win, there is the potential for monetary winnings!

As a Head TA for the course Cybersecurity and International Relations at Brown, I am enjoying getting to apply my academic training. As a previous speech and debate competitor, I’m excited for that rush of adrenaline that comes with presenting a speech and waiting to see round results. We’re here competing under the instruction of the Cybersecurity and International Relations professor, who is not only my employer (as an HTA) and also a close mentor at Brown (for each of the members on our team).

While I don’t know yet how this competition is going to go, I do know that this is one of many opportunities to travel and compete with Brown. A set of pure-technical CS competitors went to a different competition several weeks ago, and won. Computer Science lends itself to competition, but it isn’t the sole department that sponsors trips for students- almost every department has opportunities to travel or compete, as well as opportunities to submit work for approval or publication. Check the @thebruinclub Twitter for updates and pictures tomorrow as I compete!

Want more snapshots and FAQ updates? Check out @thebruinclub on Twitter! Have questions or comments for me? Want more details? Send an email to celina_stewart@brown.edu and I’ll get back ASAP!

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