Our Core Purpose

The NICE Challenge Project is tasked with the creation of virtual challenges based on the NICE (National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education) Cybersecurity Workforce Framework tasks while also mapping those challenges to not only the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework KSA (Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities) and Competencies but also the CAE (Centers of Academic Excellence) Knowledge Units.

The Full Package

The task of creating many challenges, eventually hundreds, seems simple enough but in order to manage and update that amount of content would have proved difficult without some prior planning and development. Thus, the NICE Challenge Project actually consists of three different pieces: the NICE Challenges, the NICE Challenge Environments, and the NICE Challenge Platform.


The Challenges

The NICE Challenges are the actual content of our project. While challenges appear to be very similar to labs they have some very important differences. Challenges emphasize real world problem solving over step-by-step instructions. To do this our challenges are written as business scenarios which have many different technical solutions. Step-by-step labs provide the illusion that there is only one way to complete a task, while also having very limited real world value. Along with each challenge we provide documentation for the educator or administrator that has multi-tier evaluation support while continuing to leave the true evaluation to them.

The Environments

The NICE Challenge Environments are what contain the NICE Challenges. These environments are styled after the categories from the NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework and are always highly diverse when it comes to operating systems and services. At the simplest level a Challenge Environment is a semi-isolated set of virtual machines and networks that are hosted in our private cloud. Each player gets their own Challenge Environment and each Challenge Environment can host hundreds of challenges.

The Platform

The NICE Challenge Platform is made up of our proprietary virtual appliances and the services they host. It allows us to dynamically modify the Challenge Environments on the fly to meet the conditions of any challenge, this is how one environment can house hundreds of challenges. Currently our virtual appliances also host three other support services. The first support service provides live feedback on a player’s progress through a challenge for the player and their administrator. The second is a trouble ticket system that provides the player with a place to document their solution and real world context provided through the observations of fictitious users. And the last is a portal that allows for players to browse the currently available challenges and start them.

Value Proposition

  • Up to Date and Consistent Hands-on Content
  • Maps to Important Educational Objectives
    • CAE Knowledge Units
    • NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework Tasks
    • NICE Cybersecurity Workforce Framework Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
  • Rapid Development of New Content
  • Available Anywhere with an Internet Connection
  • Leaves Evaluation and Teaching style up to the Professor
  • Student Evaluation Assistance
  • Distributed Live Class-Wide Progression Observation Solution
Government & Industry
  • Rapid Development of Content and Exploit Sandboxes
  • Offers a Sandbox Environment for New Exploits
  • Allows Testing of New Hires on a Wide Range of Technical Skills
  • Leaves Evaluation up to Administrator
  • Testee Evaluation Assistance
  • Gives Staff Environments to Test their Skills or Learn New Ones
  • Distributed Live Progression Observation Solution