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CyberTaipan is an Australian Youth Cyber Defence Competition for teams of high school aged students. Take your first step into cyber security, try new challenges and gain experience in defensive techniques.

In summary

  • Teams are comprised of two to five high school-aged students, with an optional reserve competitor.
  • Each team must include a responsible adult (a CyberTaipan team coach) as the primary contact between the CyberTaipan Program Office and the participants.
  • Coaches may choose to work with a technical mentor and/or team assistant (see below for further details).
  • All coaches, mentors and team assistants must successfully complete a Working with Vulnerable People Check (or relevant state equivalent) before being allowed to participate in CyberTaipan.
  • Students are prohibited from participating in CyberTaipan if they have participated in CyberPatriot or in CyberPatriot-affiliated competitions around the world.
  • Due to COVID-19 disruptions, the competition fee has been waived for the 2021 and 2022 competitions.

How does the competition work?

Each team competes in a series of online competition rounds by fixing vulnerabilities, hardening systems, and performing other tasks related to networking, cyber defence and cyber security.

Teams compete for a six consecutive-hour period within the Friday to Sunday times and dates designated for each of the two rounds (see Competition Dates). This period begins when the team’s first virtual machine image is opened. Teams should not compete outside of competition windows, as the scoring server is unavailable to receive team scores.

The ten highest scoring teams, totalled across the two scored online rounds, will be invited to compete in the live National Final – a virtual event held at the beginning of Term 4, 2022.

Team organisation

CyberTaipan teams consist of the following team members:

Team coach

CyberTaipan coaches are the backbone of the competition. CyberTaipan requires an adult to register as a team coach before any students are permitted to register or compete. Coaches are adults (e.g. teachers, parents, staff members) approved by a participating school or educational organisation to act as the administrative lead of a CyberTaipan team. Having one, and only one, adult coach on record for each team is a non-negotiable requirement.

Coaches do not need to be technically savvy, as teams are welcome to work with technical mentors as described below, but all coaches are responsible for the following:

  • Ensuring competitor safety by controlling access to minors, following legal and school requirements, and adequately supervising students during practice rounds and all rounds of competition.
  • Protecting competition integrity by ensuring students receive no assistance from mentors, team assistants, or anyone else during competition rounds. Coaches are also responsible for upholding the competition rules as outlined in this rulebook.
  • Acting as the main point of contact for the team receiving preparation emails for each round of competition, as well as the links to access the competition images. The role of official point of contact may not be delegated to a mentor. Additionally, should we need to contact a team about score discrepancies, registration issues, or any other competition matters, we will use the information on file for the team’s coach. All CyberTaipan coaches should therefore ensure that they are capable of receiving messages from cybertaipan@csiro.au, which may be blocked by school firewalls.

Competitors

All competitors must be high school-aged students within Australia. Each CyberTaipan team must consist of between two and five competitors (and one reserve) enrolled in the participating school, organisation, or community group.

While up to six students are permitted on each team’s roster, a maximum of five students are permitted to compete at any one time during a competition round. The competitor not competing may act as a substitute and cannot assist the active competitors.

A team’s registered reserve competitor may be substituted for any of the participating competitors at the coach’s discretion. A reserve competitor may only be substituted into their registered team; they cannot join any of the other teams from their school or organisation.

A competitor shall compete on only one team during a CyberTaipan season. If a Coach has multiple teams registered for the competition, competitors may not be shuffled between teams during and/or between rounds. If a student or team is no longer able to participate, the Coach must complete a Withdrawal Form before or immediately after a Round commences.

Technical mentor(s)

Technical mentors are professionals with experience in IT and/or cybersecurity who volunteer their time to teach cyber defence skills and cyber ethics to CyberTaipan teams. All mentors are required to register on the CyberTaipan website and successfully complete a Working with Vulnerable People Check (or relevant state equivalent) before being added to the list of approved mentors. All mentors must be over the age of 18 years.

Mentors must not teach hacking skills or offensive cyber tactics to competitors and will meet with a team only with the coach’s approval. One or more registered mentors may be chosen by a coach to assist in training their CyberTaipan team(s). Teams are not required to have a mentor. CyberTaipan mentors are welcome to assist multiple teams. There is no minimum time commitment for mentors. For example, a mentor can volunteer on a guest lecture basis or commit to training a team throughout the competition season.

Suggested responsibilities include the following:

  • Advising the team's coach on technical skills.
  • Developing, with the coach's guidance, a plan to teach cyber defence skills.
  • Teaching and assisting competitors with cyber defence skills.

Team assistant(s)

Team assistants are adult volunteers who provide non-technical support and encouragement to the team, such as assisting with scheduling, set-up, snacks, and transportation. Team assistants are required to register on the CyberTaipan website and successfully complete a Working with Vulnerable People Check (or relevant state equivalent) before being added to the list of approved assistants.

Before the round

  • Train
    Teams will begin training before the first and second round. Coaches may work with their technical mentors to provide more advanced training to their teams. Additional materials for the competition will be made available to team coaches directly.
  • Prepare
    All teams should make sure that they have the hardware, software, and network capabilities required to compete successfully. As the goal of the program is to have as many teams as possible competing, technical requirements are kept to a minimum.
  • Wait
    One week before the competition begins, the CyberTaipan Program Office will email coaches with instructions on how to access the virtual machine images for that round.

During the round

  • Access
    To begin competing — and to start their six consecutive-hour period — teams access and open the virtual machine images provided for that round.
  • Identify
    When the images are opened, teams are prompted to enter a Unique Identifier. This is a 12-digit alphanumeric code that is assigned to teams and provided to coaches before the competition.
  • Fix
    The goal of each CyberTaipan round is to find and fix vulnerabilities in the provided virtual machine images. These vulnerabilities range from simple fixes (e.g. improving the strength of users' passwords) to more complex fixes that may require multiple steps.
  • Score
    Teams gain points for fixing scored security vulnerabilities; however not all vulnerabilities in an image are scored. It is possible to reduce a score if a fix to one vulnerability undoes a previous fix, or if a team action makes a system less secure, or conflicts with the scenario for that round. Points lost to penalties can be recovered by way of corrective action. Teams can check on their progress during the competition round on using a provided scoring report page.
  • Compare
    A live scoreboard is available for teams to see how they stack up against other teams across the country. These scores are unofficial and undergo review by CyberTaipan staff following the competition.
  • Ask
    CyberTaipan staff are available to answer technical support questions during the round by email during peak competition hours. Instructions for accessing technical support will be sent to coaches prior to each round. Teams may not ask questions about vulnerabilities during the requests for technical assistance.

After the round

  • Wait
    Within three business days of the round closing, coaches will receive a confirmation email from the CyberTaipan Program Office outlining their team’s scores, accounting for any penalties that were incurred.
  • Celebrate
    To celebrate their accomplishments, all participants from Round 1 and 2 are invited to attend the virtual Awards Presentation (see Competition Dates).

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