Esports

US Cyber Games and TikTok turn cybersecurity into an esport


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Cybersecurity is a big international priority, and to get more people into it, the U.S. government and industry are turning it into an esport.

TikTok and the federal Commerce Department’s National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education have teamed up to create an esports-style competition for aspiring cyberprofessionals to show off their talent.

The partnership will enable the US Cyber Team to field a team in both domestic and international competitions. The events started in May with the US Cyber Open, where 18-to-26-year-olds of all levels joined a free, two-week competition to earn an invitation to the US Cyber Combine Invitational, which is like a physical sports combine where scouts find candidates.

US Cyber Games Commissioner and Katzcy CEO Jessica Gulick said in an interview with VentureBeat that many of the competitions are styled after the Capture the Flag tournaments that take place at the Defcon security event, which is being held this week in Las Vegas. In those competitions, teams race against time and each other to find security flaws. TikTok as a founding sponsor of the first US Cyber Games and team.

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Cyberathletes had to complete an aptitude evaluation, interviewed with multiple cultures, and they’re training weekly in advanced competitions. More than 688 people participated in the May event, Gulick said. The official Draft Day for the US Cyber Team is October 5, where the top 20 cyberathletes will be picked for the first US Cyber Team from a field of about 75 people.

After that, the team will train together as they prepare to represent the U.S. at the inaugural International Cybersecurity Challenge (ICC) in December. At least nine nations will compete in Athens, Greece in challenges spanning web application and system exploitation, cryptography, reverse engineering, hardware challenges, forensics, and escape rooms. They will work on cybersecurity with coaches on things like network security or internet of things security.

Above: Cybersecurity skills are in high demand.

Image Credit: peshkov/Getty Images

To help the US Cyber Team develop critical teamwork and technical skills, TikTok chief security officer Roland Cloutier is joining the US Cyber Games board, alongside other cybersecurity leaders including Gulick, NICE lead for international engagement Danielle Santos and lead for academic engagement Davina Pruitt-Mentle; Women’s Society of Cyberjutsu CEO Mari Galloway; competitions section chief at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Michael Harpin; and many others.

Cybersecurity, as a (science, technology, engineering, and math) STEM discipline, has been identified as one of the most serious challenges facing countries around the world. The nonprofit Center for Cyber Safety and Education predicts the gap between qualified cybersecurity professionals and unfilled positions will reach 1.8 million by 2022.

By 2029, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for information security jobs to grow by 31%, including rising demands across both the public and private sectors. Women and other minorities are under-represented globally in the fast-growing discipline, underscoring a growing need for cybersecurity education and career development programs.

Cloutier said in a statement that addressing under participation in STEM fields is critical to enhancing opportunity for individuals, developing a stronger global workforce, and inspiring creativity to shape the future.

The inaugural US Cyber Games coaching team is led by head coach T.J. O’Connor, who serves as the cybersecurity program chair at Florida Tech. Jasmine Jackson is the jeopardy-style capture the flag coach. She is a senior applications security engineer for a Fortune 500 company and an adjunct professor at Drexel University.

Rob Fuller is the red versus blue coach. He has helped lead Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (MACCDC) as a Red Team Captain and now their chief technology officer.

The US Cyber Games are led by PlayCyber (by Katzcy) in collaboration with the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE).

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