A new cyber esports league will be hosting the Cyber Esports Tournament at this year’s DEF CON, thanks to a startup founder with a vision for closing the cybersecurity workforce gap.
Players in the world’s first cyber warfare esports league will validate their cybersecurity skills and get matched to fill real-world cybersecurity jobs at the annual DEF CON, a hacker convention that starts this year on August 5, immediately following Black Hat in Las Vegas. Players finishing in first place will win $1,000. To register, click here.
U.S. Air Force veteran Nigel LeBlanc launched Cyber Warrior Network (CWN) in 2015 after he realized transitioning military members needed help connecting with civilian employers looking for cyber experts.
LeBlanc and his startup team created the highly immersive game called CyberWraith, the first cyber skills training and verification game powered by artificial intelligence or AI to validate a player’s skills in the game. CWN’s machine learning cloud application then connects players to businesses hiring with the best matches in the civilian or veteran cyber talent pool.
“Think of Cyber Wraith as “Call of Duty” game for ethical hackers,” LeBlanc said. “Job seekers needn’t be veterans to test skills and learn new ones.”
All those interested in a cybersecurity career can play the video game. At the same time, recruiters can track prospective job candidates who can demonstrate skills in the game suitable for a specific position.
The U.S. Air Force Civilian Service, Google Security and Privacy, OneLogin, and Identify Security are partnering with the Cyber Warrior Network to sponsor this year’s CyberWraith cyber tournament at DEF CON’s Red Team Village. These companies will get first pick at the best players in the tournament.
CWN hosted the first cyber esports tournament at DEF CON last year. The top players interviewed with companies like Google, Hulu, and Healthmark for cyber jobs.
LeBlanc and his company have been invited back to host another cyber esports tournament at this year’s DEF CON and are looking for more tournament sponsors.
The cybersecurity labor crunch is projected to hit 3.5 million unfilled jobs by 2021. Yet, possessing certifications is not enough for those on the front lines of cybersecurity. Contributing to the workforce gap is the challenge in identifying candidates’ skills and experience for these jobs.
CyberWraith’s game-based missions are based on real cybersecurity events from history. The AI algorithm adapts to how effectively you solve challenges. CWN’s algorithm can match gameplay to the categories used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology or NIST’s Workforce Framework for Cybersecurity (NICE Framework) that describes the tasks, knowledge, and skills needed to perform cybersecurity work.
CWN’s platform can match gameplay to the Cyber Kill Chain model developed by Lockheed Martin that identifies what cyber adversaries must complete in order to achieve objectives. The game also aligns with Mitre’s ATT&CK framework, a globally-accessible knowledge base of adversary tactics and techniques based on real-world observations. The alignment with industry-recognized standards for cyber skills enables players to show they are qualified for specific types of cybersecurity positions.
“This is an absolute game-changer, no pun intended.” Le Blanc said. “CWN’s ability to recreate any existing network or develop custom challenges and content eliminates the need to build and deploy the traditionally expensive, labor-intensive cyber ranges.”
Cyber Warrior Network partnered with the Alice and Smith game company on CyberWraith, which is embedded within the gaming company’s NITE Team 4 game. The video game won the 2018 Barcelona Games World award for best PC game in the startup category.
“Our talent scouting algorithm compares candidates against what employers need and test their skills within the game,” LeBlanc said. “When you’re done playing, the algorithm recommends available training to help boost your skills.”
Jungle Disk CEO Bret Piatt, a San Antonio-based cybersecurity expert, told Startups San Antonio last fall how no conventional video gaming companies are creating immersive cybersecurity games. CWN’s video game offers opportunities for players to learn while they engage in realistically designed cyber missions.
“Not only could you recruit new talent, but CyberWraith can also help company leaders identify talent already in the organization,” Piatt said. “By having employees play the game, you’ll know the ones who show basic skill sets and aptitude, staff who could be identified to help fill skill gaps in cybersecurity in a company.”
As for dominating the gaming market, it’s more than just a game for LeBlanc. A San Antonio startup to watch in 2020, Cyber Warrior Network will launch its inaugural league this fall with participation from 36 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
“Although the primary mission of the league is to attract, discover, and create skilled cyber talent pipelines, CWN also recognizes that the lack of diversity and inclusion in cybersecurity is a part of the problem as well,” LeBlanc said. “We’re operationalizing eSports to solve a huge pain point — finding cyber talent.”
The featured image is of the login screen for Cyber Warrior Network’s cyber game CyberWraith. Photo credit: Startups San Antonio.