Competition Overview

​​​What does a school need to participate?

Each CyberPatriot team requires a coach, usually a teacher or adult leader of a team-sponsoring organization. Coaches do not need to be computer experts. In fact, any teacher or responsible adult leader can effectively lead a team to a fun and successful competition!

A minimum of two ​computers (thre​e is recommended) and an Internet connection are required for occasional weekend use during the online portions of the competition. Computer hardware requirements are modest, and most schools already have computers that meet the technical specifications of the competition. Full hardware, software, and technical requirements can be found on the Technical Specifications page. 


Upon registration, each team receives access to the Microsoft Developers Network Academic Alliance. This allows the team to download a number of operating systems and productivity tools that can be used t​o prepare for the competition. This benefit alone is worth several thousand dollars. Each registered team member also receives a CyberPatriot participant kit. In previous seasons, this kit has included a CyberPatriot t-shirt, a commemorative coin, an official lapel pin. 

Training materials are provided to get teams started on increasing their cyber knowledge, and there is no course or skill prerequisite for the program. Any student who has an interest in the program can join and be successful. 

Competition basics

Teams compete in three divisions:

  • Open High School Division: Open to all high schools, scouting units, Boys and Girls Clubs, and approved high school home school programs across the country
  • All Service Division: High school JROTC Programs / Civil Air Patrol units / Naval Sea Cadet Corps units
  • Middle School Division: Open to teams of middle school students

The early rounds of the competition are done online during weekends in a six-hour period from the teams' home locations (schools, homes, libraries, etc.). A Coach chooses their team's six-hour competition period. 

Each team has two challenges during their six-hour competition period:

  • ​​The Network Security Challenge involves finding and fixing security vulnerabilities in Windows and Linux operating systems. 
  • The Cisco Networking Challenge consists of an online quiz and a virtual networking exercise based on specific training materials.
Panorama of competition image and PT.jpg

                                              Network Security Challenge                                                                               Cisco Networking Challenge

The challenges are relatively easy in the first round and become more complex as the competition continues. 

Prior to the rounds, teams download "virtual image" representations of operating systems with known flaws, or cybersecurity "vulnerabilities."  During the rounds, teams must find the flaws while keeping computer functions ("services," such as email) working. Team progress is recorded by a central CyberPatriot scoring system. Teams also take the online networking quiz and virtual networking exercise at the same time, which are based on assigned training materials for each round.

For the Open and All Service Divisions, scores from two​ online qualification rounds are added together to determine team placement into one of three tiers for the State Rounds: Platinum, Gold, and Silver. These tiers have cybersecurity challenges of different degrees of complexity. After the online State Round, the top teams advance to the Semifinals for the Open Division. The top six teams in each All Service Division category and wild cards​ advance to the Semifinals.

Following theSemifinals, the top 12 Platinum Tier Open Division teams and top two teams from each All Service Division category plus one Wild Card All Service team advance, all-expenses paid, to the in-person National Fina​ls Competition held at the Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Md. There, the Finalists compete face-to-face against other teams in their division to defend virtual networks from a professional aggressor team. Winners of the National Finals are awarded scholarship grants.

The Middle School competition is slightly different. After two qualifying rounds and the State Round, the top teams advance to the Semifinals. From there, the top three teams advance to the National Finals Competition. ​