NICE Challenge Project 2019 Q1 Newsletter

NICE Challenge Project 2019 Q1 Newsletter

With March now behind us, the first quarter of 2019 is over and has proven that this year is going to be a busy one for the NICE Challenge Development Team. Over the past several months, we have been busy creating a ton of new Protect & Defend challenges and adding many new features and refinements to the NICE Challenge Webportal. Today we will be sharing many of these updates in detail and hope to hear your feedback!


As previously mentioned, we have quite a few Webportal updates to talk about. Not only are there some big feature releases to cover, but also many quality of life updates.

Challenge Strategy Guides

One significant update to the Webportal is the addition of Challenge Strategy Guides. The Challenge Strategy Guides are a new addition to each technical challenge on the “Challenge Previews” page for curators that includes high-level knowledge requirements for completing each check within a challenge.

Challenge Strategy Guide UI Screenshot

As depicted in the above picture, these guides are for curators only and are not meant for players. While they are far from a solution manual, the Challenge Strategy Guides would eliminate the need for players to decode the context in the 'Meeting Notes' and reveal details that we purposefully obscure from their view. We hope the Challenge Strategy Guides will provide educators with more information on how to prepare students for challenges and make it easier to pair challenges with their lessons.

Redesigned Reservations & Submissions Pages

Two of the most important pages for curators are the 'Reservations' and 'Submissions' pages. They are also the pages for which we have received the most user feedback. In these redesigns, we have added some frequently requested features and updates to these pages.

Create Reservation UI Screenshot

The 'Reservation' page update starts with a more information rich user interface that gives the curator an overview of what we are going to ask and alerts curators about specific areas where an invalid entry has been made. Additionally, a highly anticipated feature we are implementing is adding the ability for curators to create reservations where players have limited challenges available. This should limit players deploying incorrect challenges.

The 'Submissions' page has also received a user interface overhaul, focusing on a more vertical layout which scales better for different screen resolutions. In addition to the interface update, we have added a variety of requested features. The new 'Submission Feedback' section allows curators to leave their players feedback on challenge submissions. Challenge submissions now include a 'Known Challenge Issues' section that details all known issues that might have affected player performance and details how it might affect the submission data. Finally, to help our more active users, we have added the ability to filter submissions by reservations and added a 'Reviewed' column to our submissions table.

Quality of Life Updates

In addition to the two redesigned pages, we have released a handful of quality of life updates to various parts of the Webportal. These updates include a new autosave feature for the 'Documentation' section in workspaces, the addition of a 'Check Type' column to the 'Checks' section in workspaces, a notification banner for urgent notices, and the addition of several new tool tips across the Webportal.


We have recently released a huge batch of new challenges in the Protect & Defend environment. These new challenges bring the total number of available challenges in the Protect & Defend environment to twenty-five! If you are interested in getting a taste of one of the newly released challenges, check out the challenge highlight below.

Challenge Highlight: Disastrous DNS Destruction

After firing an employee due to suspicious behavior, Pretty Safe Electronics (a small retailer), suddenly found that their internal web traffic is being redirected to a server hosting a questionable website. After brief a inspection, it is clear the website is designed to distribute malware! This challenge pits the player against the rogue employee's final ploy, requiring them to determine how the traffic is being redirected and stop it before things get worse.


We have completely redesigned our informational website! This redesign effort had two major goals: making the website look more modern and refocusing the content on the website. The NICE Challenge Project has been around for six years and has matured a great deal in that time. The old website reflected the exploratory nature of the project in its early years, while the new website focuses on what the project has created and how it is used today by educators and educational institutions across the United States. You can visit the new website at

If you wish to use the NICE Challenges and don't yet have a Curator account on our Webportal (currently limited to faculty/staff at U.S. educational institutions), use the link below to access our website and fill out the sign-up form to get started. We are always looking for feedback on our work!

As always, thank you for your interest! All of us in the NICE Challenge Development Team look forward to working with you to make the best platform, environments, and challenges to enable the cybersecurity workforce of the future.

NICE Challenge Project Links...

NICE Challenge Project Website -
NICE Challenge Webportal -
NICE Challenge Helpdesk -