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President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition

Established in response to Executive Order 13870, the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition is a national cyber competition aiming to identify, recognize, and reward the best cybersecurity talent in the federal executive workforce. Hosting challenges from across the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Cybersecurity Framework, competitors will face a diverse array of challenges and will require an extensive skill set to succeed.

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2020 Team Competition

Registration: Jul 27-Aug 14, 2020
Qualification Round 1: Aug 10-19, 2020

Participate as a Team
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2020 Individual Competition

Registration: Jul 27-Aug 28, 2020
Qualification Round 1: Aug 24-Sep 2, 2020

Individual Track A
Incident Response/Forensics
Individual Track B
Exploitation/Vuln Assessment
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PCCC Practice Area

Practice demo challenges and last year's content

2020 Practice 2019 Challenges
Gameboard New
2019 Challenges
Open Source
2019 Challenges
Walkthrough Videos

As announced at:

cisa.gov/presidentscup

New for 2020

Welcome to the 2020 President's Cup Cyber Security Competition! For those of you who competed last year—we're glad to have you back. For those of you who are competing for the first time in 2020—we're glad you joined us.

Your President's Cup Team has been working hard to improve upon the inaugural competition held in 2019.

Here are the highlights:

Individual Tracks A & B

The individual competition is divided into two specialized tracks rather than one general track: Track A (Incident Response/Forensics) and Track B (Exploitation/Vulnerability Assessment). Compete in Track A, Track B, or both. Individual tracks have a four (4) hour session time limit. See FAQ #3 for additional details. Remember, you can compete as a team and as an individual.

Partial Credit Challenges

Two new types of challenges that allow for partial credit have been introduced. Partial credit challenges can have multiple parts or stages. Points are awarded for solving parts or stages of these challenges rather than the "all-or-nothing" approach from 2019. See FAQs #18, #20, and #21 for additional details.

Competition Gameboard Enhancements

Significant enhancements have been made to the competition gameboard, including:

  • A robust Practice board contains sample challenges for all challenge types: single answer, multiple part, and multiple stage.
  • Detailed submission formats available in the challenge instructions. See FAQs #19 and #21.
  • Print challenge instructions directly from the gameboard.
  • Downloadable artifacts available wherever feasible (in addition to the virtual environment).
  • Gameboard map for the team competition—select an appropriate challenge by hovering over the map.

Tighter Integration with NICE Framework

In the gameboard, challenges have been mapped to NICE Framework work roles rather than sub-categories making it easier for participants to decide which challenges to attempt. Direct links in the challenge instructions to relevant NICE Framework work roles and tasks are included. Challenges have been tagged according to NICE work roles and tasks. See FAQ #11 for additional details.

Final Words…

Please review all of the FAQs and videos before starting the competition, but pay particular attention to:

Thank you all for your participation and best of luck to you in the 2020 President's Cup!

Media

Videos

Images


Continuous Session Timer

Register/Enroll

2020 Competition Kickoff

2020 Blue Desktop Background

2020 Green Desktop Background

Competition Rules

Conduct

  1. Violation of the Rules of Conduct as outlined may result in disqualification from the competition.
  2. Enforcement of the Rules of Conduct is at the discretion of the Competition Staff.
  3. Competitors will conduct themselves in a manner that befits employees of the Federal government and members of the Uniformed Services in all aspects of the competition.
  4. When choosing team and individual nicknames, competitors will show decorum and refrain from any names that are vulgar or political in nature (In accordance with the Hatch Act). Names will go through an approval process before appearing on the leaderboard. Inappropriate language, references to political persons or parties, or otherwise inappropriate content will be asked to be changed. The competition aims to support morale building, esprit de corps, and friendly rivalries between military units, and government departments and agencies. The competition staff reserves the right to ask any team or individual to change their name and maintains final judgement on what is acceptable.
  5. Classified toolsets are not authorized for use. All challenges are designed to be solved using open source tools including those provided on the hosted virtual machines
  6. Any attempts at unauthorized access or “Denial of Service” attacks are forbidden and will result in disqualification. “Escaping” the virtual machines or otherwise tampering with or targeting the hosting environment is prohibited.
  7. Competitors will not disclose any information involving the challenges to anyone during the competition outside of their competition team.

Team Composition

  1. Participants can only be on one team and cannot change teams during the competition. Once a team is locked during registration, it can NOT be changed later in the competition.
  2. Teams of 2 to 5 members must be from the same federal Executive Branch department or agency. For example, a cross-service, joint Department of Defense team is permitted as well as a Department of Justice team comprised of members from FBI, DEA, and ATF.
  3. Detailees to an external department can represent their home or detailed department. For example, a member of the Coast Guard detailed to DoD's US Cyber Command can be on a DoD or a DHS team.
  4. Detailees should seek approval of both their home agency and detail supervisor, including agreement on which agency will be responsible for awards.
  5. Team members must be government civilian employees or military service members. Government contractors are NOT allowed to participate in the 2020 President's Cup.

Time and Challenge Submission Restrictions

  1. During the qualification rounds, teams have 8 hours to complete as many challenges as they can. Individuals have 4 hours per track to solve as many challenges as they can.
  2. In the event of a tiebreaker, the "Cumulative Time" figure will be used to determine who moves on to the Final Round. The Cumulative Time is the total time spent in challenges successfully solved. This is calculated using a timer specific to each challenge on your game board. When you start a challenge, the timer starts. When you successfully solve a challenge, your score and cumulative time are updated.
  3. Correct answers will vary based on the challenge format and the questions being asked. Please refer to each challenge description which will clearly articulate the format of the answer.

Registration

  • Teams: Starts at 9:00 AM on July 27, 2020 and ends at 5:00 PM EDT on August 14
  • Individuals: Starts at 9:00 AM on July 27, 2020 and ends at 5:00 PM EDT on August 28
  • Participation in the President's Cup will be closed after these dates/times.

Support and Contact Information

To ask a question, report a problem, or provide other feedback on the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition, send email to: prescup-support@sei.cmu.edu or call (412) 268-3054.

Please include as much detail as possible including the specific challenge title, challenge Support Code (found in the lower-right corner of the challenge pane), any system element(s) involved, and any error messages you may have received.

Hours of Operation

The President's Cup Cybersecurity Competition is open for participation 24/7 during registration and qualifying. Support during registration and qualifying is available:

  • Registration period – Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Qualifying rounds – Monday through Friday, 24-hour support; Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Hours are Eastern Daylight Time.

Please note that support availability is limited on weekends during the competition; participants who choose to compete during this time do so at their own risk. Please make use of the demo challenges to ensure access and compatibility before competing.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below you will find some commonly asked questions and answers to help you with 2020 President’s Cup. If you can’t find the answer here, please contact us.

  1. What does "Cumulative Time" mean on the leaderboard?
  2. I’m a government contractor and I want to participate. Am I eligible?
  3. Will I need any special software or applications to participate in the President’s Cup?
  4. How does each round’s continuous session timer work?
  5. Does my score carry over from one round to the next?
  6. How are ties handled?
  7. I saw that the Championship Round is an in-person, three-day event. Where is the Championship Round held?
  8. I heard about the President’s Cup too late to sign up. Will there be a President's Cup in 2021?
  9. My agency wants to enter two teams in Round 1. Is that possible?
  10. One of my team members dropped out after Round 1. Can I replace them with someone else for Round 2?
  11. When does registration for the competition start?
  12. You mention that the competition challenges will be mapped to the NICE Framework. Where can I get more information on the NICE Framework?
  13. I’m eligible to participate in the President’s Cup, but I don’t have a team. Can I participate as an individual?
  14. I’m a detailee and I want to participate. Which organization do I participate with—my original agency or my detailed agency?
  15. Can I participate on more than one team at a time?
  16. What if I can't access my email when I'm out of the office?
  17. Can I copy and paste between my host and the gamespace virtual machines?
  18. If I reach my limit of virtual gamespaces (5 for teams, 2 for individuals), can I move on to another challenge?
  19. What are the three types of challenges used in the 2020 competition and how do I know which is which?
  20. Is there a recommended format for answer submissions?
  21. I heard that competitors can receive partial credit for some challenges. How does that work?
  22. How does the grading server handle blank submissions?
  23. President’s Cup Support is asking for my “challenge Support Code”. Where can I find it?
  24. How are teams selected to advance to Round 2?
  25. How are individuals selected to advance to Round 2?
  26. How are teams and individuals selected to advance to the Final Round?
  27. What happens if I qualify for both the team and individual final rounds?
  28. Are Service Academy Cadets eligible to participate?
  29. I participated in President's Cup last year. Should I create a new account or use my existing one?

0.

What does "Cumulative Time" mean on the leaderboard?

The Cumulative Time column is only used for tiebreaking purposes. When a challenge is started, a timer tracks how long it takes to solve that challenge. The sum time of all successfully solved challenges is posted to the leaderboard under Cumulative Time. Again, this is for tiebreaking purposes only.

1.

I’m a government contractor and I want to participate. Am I eligible?

No. Government contractors cannot participate in the President's Cup.

2.

Will I need any special software or applications to participate in the President’s Cup?

No. All that is needed for the first two qualification rounds is an up-to-date web browser and your registered account. Supported browsers are: Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.

3.

How does each round’s continuous session timer work?

A session timer starts when you launch the first challenge in each round. After starting the round, you/your team will have a limited amount of time complete as many challenges as you can.

The session time limits for the 2020 competition are:

Competition Session Time Limit
Team Competition 8 hours
Individual Track A 4 hours
Individual Track B 4 hours

The session timer runs continuously and cannot be paused. Your round score is determined by the sum of all successful challenges completed during your session.

PLEASE NOTE: For the team competition, only the team leader can start a round.

4.

Does my score carry over from one round to the next?

No. The score for each round starts at zero.

5.

How are ties handled?

In the event of a tiebreaker, the "Cumulative Time" figure will be used to determine who moves on to the Final Round. The Cumulative Time is the total time spent in challenges successfully solved. This is calculated using a timer specific to each challenge on your game board. When you start a challenge, the timer starts. When you successfully solve a challenge, your score and cumulative time are updated.

PLEASE NOTE:

  • Your challenge timer does not stop if you "delete" a challenge space or go work on another challenge. If you start a challenge, then start and work on another challenge, and return to your previous challenge, your challenge timer is still running.
  • Time spent in challenges failed, or challenges started and not finished, does not count towards your cumulative score. You won't be penalized for trying!
  • Your overall competition time is still capped at eight (8) hours from when you launch your first challenge.
6.

I saw that the Championship Round is an in-person, three-day event. Where is the Championship Round held?

The final round will be held in the CISA Cybersecurity Division facility in Arlington, VA. Agencies are responsible for travel costs for their personnel.

7.

I heard about the President’s Cup too late to sign up. Will there be a President’s Cup in 2021?

Yes. The President’s Cup will continue to evolve in future years based upon lessons learned from past competitions.

8.

My agency wants to enter two teams in Round 1. Is that possible?

Yes. A department or agency can enter more than one team in the competition.

9.

One of my team members dropped out after Round 1. Can I replace them with someone else for Round 2?

No. Once a team is established, members cannot be added. You have the option to compete without that team member.

10.

When does registration for the 2020 competition start?

Registration for President’s Cup 2020 opens on Monday, July 27th and closes on Friday, August 14th for Teams and Friday, August 28th for Individuals.

11.

You mention that the competition challenges will be mapped to the NICE Framework. Where can I get more information on the NICE Framework?

This one-page overview is a good place to start. This video, NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework 101, is a more detailed introduction to the NICE Framework website.

12.

I’m eligible to participate in the President’s Cup, but I don’t have a team. Can I participate as an individual?

Yes. Participants can compete either as part of a team or as an individual or both. Round 1 is open to any and all Federal Executive Branch cybersecurity professionals.

13.

I’m a detailee and I want to participate. Which organization do I participate with – my original agency or my detailed agency?

Detailees to a specific agency can participate on a team for their detailed agency or their home agency subject to the approval of both their home agency and detail supervisor, including agreement on which agency will be responsible for awards.

14.

Can I participate on more than one team at a time?

No. You can only be a team member on one team.

15.

What if I can't access my email when I'm out of the office?

To use multi-factor authentication without access to email, visit your identity profile at presidentscup.cisa.gov/id/ui/profile and Configure 2FA. You'll need to be logged in for this, so be sure to do this while you do have access to email.

There you can generate a Time-based One Time Password (TOTP) secret key. Use this secret key with any totp-enabled authentication app, such as Duo Mobile or Google Authenticator, by simply scanning the barcode. If you don't have access to your device, copy down the secret key and later input it into the totp app on your device.

16.

Can I copy/paste between my host and the gamespace virtual machines?

Yes. The cog button in the upper-left corner of the virtual machine console allows you to move text bidirectionally between your host and that virtual machine.

17.

If I reach my limit of virtual gamespaces (5 for teams, 2 for individuals), can I move on to another challenge?

Yes. If you start a challenge but would like to move on to another challenge without finishing it, you can DELETE that gamespace. However, the challenge timer will not stop. When you return to this challenge, you can RESTART the gamespace in its original state.

18.

What are the three types of challenges used in the 2020 competition and how do I know which is which?

In the gameboard:

  • A single answer challenge shows (Single Answer) with a single visible submission box.
  • A multiple part challenge shows (Part 1 of x) with multiple visible submission boxes available at all times. Partial credit can be received.
  • A multiple stage challenge shows (Stage 1 of x) with a single visible submission box available at a time. A new submission box is visible for each stage. Partial credit can be received.
19.

Is there a recommended format for answer submissions?

Correct answers will vary based on the challenge format and the questions being asked. Please refer to each challenge description which will clearly articulate the format of the answer.

20.

I heard that competitors can receive partial credit for some challenges. How does that work?

For the 2020 competition, we've implemented partial credit to reward competitor's efforts toward solving certain challenges. Partial credit challenges can have multiple parts and/or stages.

Multiple Parts

For challenges with more than one part, you will be presented with multiple submission boxes in the challenge. These challenges are designed to test your knowledge across the breadth of a challenge; for instance, you may be asked to provide multiple identifiers from a packet capture file, each as its own solution. The challenge will clearly identify the expected format for each submission part.

PLEASE NOTE: When you press submit, ALL of your solutions will be sent to the grading server, and you will be limited to THREE (3) submissions per challenge. This applies whether or not you leave any submission boxes empty.

Multiple Stages

For challenges with more than one stage, you must correctly submit the answer token in each stage before advancing to the next stage.

PLEASE NOTE: Each stage has its own submission limit, and you will be limited to THREE (3) submissions per stage.

21.

How does the grading server handle blank submissions?

Please review the following rules for how the grading server accepts blank submissions:

For a single answer challenge:

  • An empty submission box is not accepted by the grading server.
  • The number of submission attempts is unaffected. You will have three (3) submission attempts for a single answer challenge.
  • The Sum of All Containers in the Practice round is an example of this.

For a multiple part challenge (partial credit):

  • All submission boxes are shown.
  • When all submission boxes are empty, the grading server does not accept the submission. The number of submission attempts is unaffected.
  • When some submission boxes are empty, the grading server does accept an empty submission box(es) as incorrect answers. The number of submission attempts decreases by one (1). Partial credit is awarded where applicable.
  • You have three (3) submission attempts for a multiple part challenge.
  • Team Effort in the Practice round is an example of this.

For a multiple stage challenge (partial credit):

  • One submission box is shown at a time; an empty submission box is not accepted by the grading server.
  • The number of submission attempts resets for each stage. You will have three (3) submission attempts per stage. If you run out of attempts during a stage, you do not advance to the next stage.
  • Hashy Bashy in the Practice round is an example of this.
22.

President’s Cup Support is asking for my “challenge Support Code”. Where can I find it?

The challenge Support Code can be found in the lower-right corner of the challenge pane. The Support Code looks similar to this: a347c5c6.

23.

How are teams selected to advance to Round 2?

In the Teams competition, the top-scoring team from each competing Department automatically advances to Round 2. For the purposes of the competition, Departments align with the organizations listed during enrollment.

For those not included as top Department teams, the top 20% of remaining teams based on their final scores advance to Round 2 as well. No time-based tiebreakers are used to calculate the 20% cutoff, so all teams tied at the score cutoff will advance.

24.

How are individuals selected to advance to Round 2?

In the Individuals competition, the top 100 scores in each track advance to Round 2. There are no tie-breakers; all tied for 100th place in each track will be invited to continue. Round 1 leaderboard scores are used to determine the cutoff line, and no time-based tiebreakers are used in this calculation.

25.

How are teams and individuals selected to advance to the Final Round?

The top five teams and top 10 individuals will advance to the Final Round based on each respective leaderboard at the end of Round 2.

26.

What happens if I qualify for both the team and individual final rounds?

The final rounds for the President's Cup team and individual competitions will be held on different days. Competitors who qualify for both final round events will be able to compete in each one without a conflict. Furthermore, each Individual Track final will take place at different times, allowing for someone to participate in both if they should qualify.

27.

Are Service Academy Cadets eligible to participate?

Service Academy Cadets are eligible and encouraged to participate! Cadets can register with their .edu email address, or contact the help desk at prescup-support@sei.cmu.edu and we will work to get you enrolled.

28.

I participated in President's Cup last year. Should I use my existing account or create a new one?

If you are using the same email address as last year, use the Password Reset option to gain access to your existing account.