Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition

What is the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition?

The Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition is a cyber security competition for college students. College students form teams to compete in a simulated, real world environment. The goal of the competition is to help students develop cyber security skills. In the simulated environment, student teams identify problems. Then, they address the cyber security issues in the network. Finally, they deal with any vulnerabilities.

This unique competition aims to give students real world experience. The competition seeks to mirror the security network of an actual organization. It shows students how to identify and report risks. It gives them a chance to address the problems they have discovered. And, it forces them to complete these tasks in real time. The process is similar to any professional environment in the cyber security industry.

Ultimately, the competition breaks down into three components. Those include:

  • Technology — Competitors must show that they have technical skills. They need to put their knowledge to the test.
  • Communication — Competitors must be able to communicate effectively. They need to relay complex information to those in the industry. They also need to provide relatable information to those outside of the industry.
  • Collaboration — Competitors have to work together in teams. They need to collaborate. They have to come up with a solution together. Also, they have to combine their knowledge to finish the competition.

Students who participate will likely first attend the regional competition. There are five regions in the United States. The winners of the regional competition may attend the national competition.

The competition is recognized as one of the top cyber security events in the country. Winners will be proud to add these awards to their resumes. It is sponsored by some of the top technology companies in the world.

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Competitor Information

Students who want to compete need to know basic information about the competition. This competition may be different from other cyber security competitions. Many other competitions ask students to create their own networks. They also might require students to defend their developments. The Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition does not ask students to do those things. Rather, it requires students to work in teams in a real-world environment.

Volunteers design a mock organization that needs penetration testing services. Competing teams then have to make decisions in real-time during the competition. After making those decisions and finding solutions, teams are asked to provide reports. This may be very similar to tasks that cyber security professionals do on a daily basis. The teams will have to talk at-length about what they did during the competition. They will have to explain their actions. They will have to complete a final report that makes suggestions and recommendations.

Competitors should understand the scoring process. Teams will be scored on these components:

  • Technical Knowledge
  • Communication Skills
  • Professionalism

All teams begin at one of the regional competitions. The top two teams will go to the national competition. In total, ten teams will compete at the national level.


Winning the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition is a big deal for student teams. Winners are able to add this honor to their resume. It helps show that they can work and thrive in a real world environment. It proves that they can apply what they have learned in a professional setting.

There are several awards that competitors may win. Different awards are given at the regional level and at the state level.

The top two teams that win the regional competitions will move on to the national competition. National competition winners may be able to move on to an international competition.

Additional awards may include:

  • Best Listener
  • Most Creative
  • Best Analysis
  • Most Downloaded Data

Teams will find that judges consider many different factors. Every aspect of their performance is evaluated. Judges take into account technical skills. They consider the amount of knowledge that was used in the competition. They note how well the team communicated with one another. And, they recognize when a team makes information more relatable during the reporting portion of the competition.

Any team that competes will benefit from the experience. However, there are awards available that recognize teams that perform well.

Eligibility and Requirements

Students must be eligible to participate. These are the eligibility requirements for the competition:

  • All team members must be full time students. They must attend the university that they are representing.
  • Team members can only participate on one team.
  • Team members can only compete in the competition for five seasons.
  • There can only be one team for every participating college or university.
  • No team members can be full time employees of a sponsoring organization.

For the most current requirements refer to the main site for the competition.

These are the rules that competitors must keep in mind when forming their teams:

  • Teams need to create a roster that includes between 3 and 8 participants. This roster must be turned into the competition director.
  • Team rosters must be complete one week before the competition.
  • Every team member must meet all eligibility requirements.
  • The final team must consist of six members from the roster. The other two team members are alternates. Alternates can come to the regional event. However, they can not interact with the active team members at the event.
  • Once the competition starts, team changes are not possible. The team must finish with the members who begin the competition with them.
  • A team captain will be selected at the start of the competition.

All teams that participate in the competition must follow the rules. There are additional conduct rules that teams will need to follow as well. Teams will be provided with extensive information about rules of conduct prior to the event.

Steps to Get Into the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition

Teams who want to compete must first attend a regional competition. There are five regional competitions in the country. Each regional competition has its own process for accepting teams.

For the most part, teams simply need to identify which region they are a part of. Then, they should contact the university that is hosting the competition. Representatives for the competition should be able to provide teams with additional information about creating and submitting a team roster.

FAQs About the Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition

How Can Our Team Prepare for the Competition?

Teams could prepare by doing research prior to the competition. Some teams find it helpful to talk with cyber security professionals before the competition. Others use resources, such as industry websites, to learn about best practices.

Can Our Team Participate Remotely?

No, teams cannot participate remotely. All members of the team must attend the regional competitions. All members of the team must attend the national competitions. There are no exceptions for remote participation.

Can We Substitute a Team Member due to an Emergency?

Yes, team members can use substitutions before the competition begins. In some cases, teams have to make substitutions due to illness. Others have to make substitutions because of unforeseen circumstances. Substitutions are generally allowed. However, if the team needs a different member after the regional competition, the substitute must be listed as an alternate on the original roster.

Do All Teams Have to Have a Coach?

Yes. All teams have to have a coach. The coach should be a staff member of the university or college. The coach has to attend all team events. And, the coach must be present at the competition.

Can Graduate Students Participate?

Yes. Graduate students are eligible to participate. However, they must attend the university that is being represented. They cannot be enrolled in a different school or program.

Do Teams Have Access to the Official Rules?

Yes. Teams have access to the official rules. They can get the rules on the competition website. And as a team, they should be aware of all rules before attending the competition. This will help them prepare.

How are Teams Scored?

The scoring process may vary by competition. The regional competitions consider several factors. These include the teams overall conduct and their final reports. The national competition also evaluates team conduct and final reports. In addition, they judge the team based on their presentation to industry leaders. Teams need to remember that they must act like professionals.

Will Teams Get Feedback After the Competition is Complete?

Teams do not receive instant feedback. However, teams can request feedback. Teams that want feedback after the competition can set up a meeting. At this meeting, teams can learn more about their results. They can get the feedback they crave. Some teams like to do this so they can prepare better in the future. Others want to better understand the results.

The Collegiate Penetration Testing Competition is a well known industry event. It’s a great opportunity for students. Students studying cyber security should consider attending this event.