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Texas A&M Bush School Students Place in National Cybersecurity Competitions

February 22, 2019


Bush School team for a Cyber-security Competition.

Two Bush School of Government and Public Service students taking part in the Atlantic Council’s sixth annual Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge were charged with developing policy recommendations tackling a fictional cyber catastrophe. Second-year Master of International Affairs (MIA) candidate Patsy Taggart placed in the semi-finals at a Columbia University Atlantic Council competition. Taggart and second-year MIA candidate Rachel Shallow placed well on a team representing the Bush School in a regional cyber competition at the University of Texas at Austin in November 2018.

The Atlantic Council aims to help navigate the economic and political changes defining the twenty-first century by informing and galvanizing an influential network of global leaders to create a more secure and prosperous world.

Now entering its sixth year, the Cyber 9/12 Strategy Challenge is a one-of-a-kind competition designed to provide students across academic disciplines with a deeper understanding of the policy challenges associated with cyber crises and conflict. Part interactive learning experience and part competitive exercise, it challenges teams to respond to a realistic, evolving cyberattack and analyze the threat it poses to national, international, and private sector interests.

Bush School faculty member Dr. Andrew Ross supervised the teams. One of the teams allowed Shallow and Taggart to engage in a mission to assess and mitigate cyberattacks on critical infrastructure and private industry in the Austin simulation. Participants were given fictional news articles and government reports to help build the situation. Each round of the competition got progressively harder as both students were questioned about their decisions. Much like real life, the bureaucratic obstacles were the hardest part of responding to a simulated cyberattack, Shallow said. 

“It was a phenomenal experience. You have to not only know the material but also understand it,” said Shallow. Shallow added that the competition provided insight into the inner workings of the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence because there were employees from these agencies at the competition.

The Texas A&M Cybersecurity Center provided financial support to the students participating in the competition. The Austin team consisted of Maria Peurach, Rachel Shallow, Miranda Lindsey, and Patsy Taggart. Bush School students Brian Rabaey, Miranda Lindsey, Tiffany Easter, and Patsy Taggart placed in the semi-finals for a similar competition at Columbia University. Patsy Taggart, Rachel Shallow, Maria Peurach, and Tiffany Easter will participate in the next phase of the Atlantic Council competition in March in Washington, DC.

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