Maryland College Team Wins International Cyber Policy Hackathon


At the end of a two-day cyber policy hackathon, the team from the University of Maryland University College was awarded the top prize for addressing a massive cyberattack on a fictional country.

A massive cyberattack cripples a small country. The hack knocks out everything from bank ATMs to the beleaguered nation’s broadcasting system.

It’s a situation that’s not too far from being a reality. But the attack on “Zambonia” was fictional. This scenario was dreamed up by the organizers of a two-day cyber policy hackathon known as “DiploHack,” which wrapped up Friday.

Six university teams competed to come up with the best response to the fictional scenario. Taking home top honors was the University of Maryland University College, which now has the opportunity to participate in the Global Conference on Cyberspace taking place next month in The Hague.

The winning team’s solutions are expected to have a direct influence on the organization of the Global Cyber Resilience Initiative, a cross-continental cybersecurity network, expected to be launched at the upcoming international conference.

The DiploHack event, hosted in Washington, D.C., was the first joint cyber policy hackathon organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Embassy of the Netherlands.

“I’m not sure anything like this has been done before,” said Thomas Dukes, a panelist at the event and the deputy coordinator for cyber issues at the State Department.

One of the winning team’s key solutions involved asking international sponsors to transport malware-free servers into Zambonia.

Looking to other countries to aid in the fictional country’s fight was a common theme among teams at the hackathon, which included University of Oxford participating via teleconference.

Although the DiploHack teams were attempting to solve a fictional problem, it was based on similar, real-world events. Two years ago, Seoul suffered a devastating cyberattack believed to originated from North Korea.

After each team’s presentations were completed, the five panelists were given the opportunity to present feedback.

“I think policymakers can learn a lot from you,” panelist Belisario Contreras, cybersecurity program manager at the Organization of American States, commended the teams.

(Image via mj007/