2020 NCL SPRING SEASON
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)
Q: What is the NCL?
A: The NCL was founded in May 2011 to provide an ongoing virtual training ground for individuals to develop and validate cybersecurity knowledge and skills using content aligned with individual and team games - which is scalable across many industry certifications, curricula, job roles, and verticals.
Q: What separates the NCL from other competitions?
A: Various cybersecurity competitions exist. What’s missing from the current cybersecurity exercise landscape is a regular season that allows both the individuals and teams to develop, practice, and validate cybersecurity knowledge and skills in safe, yet challenging environments. Imagine being able to practice and play year-round in various events, in addition to the one-off “playoff” systems that currently exist. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, then the NCL is for you!
Q: What are the eligibility requirements to participate/play in NCL?
A: The NCL is open to anyone enrolled in high school or a collegiate institution. Players are expected to commit to the entire season. Players should have a cross-section of beginner knowledge and skills in computer science, networking, systems administration, operating systems, and programming/scripting.
Q: Is there a minimum age in order to compete in the NCL?
A: Yes, all NCL participants must be at least 14 years old.
Q: What does it cost to participate/play in the NCL?
A: To advance event sustainability, there is a registration fee of $35 per individual to participate in the Preseason, Individual Game and Team Game.
Q: Why does the NCL charge a fee to participate/play?
A: First, players are more likely to fully participate when they pay. Second, the money will be used to support the season and help sustain the NCL.
Q: My school is willing to pay for NCL registration for a number of students. Is there a way for my school to pay for all students at once?
A: Yes, the registration system allows a coach or administrator to purchase registrations for a group of students in one payment. The coach or administrator will receive one GAME CODE per student. Each student registers using the GAME CODE.
Q: My school needs to pay for NCL registrations using a purchase order. Is there a way for my school to process a PO to the NCL?
A: Here is what you need to do to register your students via a PO or check from your institution:
You send NCL Finance Director Dr. Costis Toregas a request at or email@example.com to enroll students from your institution in the Spring 2020 season
He will issue an NCL invoice for $35 x the number of students, and send it to your email.
You will submit the NCL invoice to your finance office, and they will send NCL a PO for that amount along with any requirements or directions NCL has to fulfill (for example a W9 etc)
Once a PO is received, we will take that in good faith as a commitment for your institution to honor it and mail to our business address (or direct deposit to our BB&T bank) the amount due BEFORE play begins, and will release the player codes to you.
You will distribute the codes to your players and they will register for the season.
If payment is not received before play begins, we must talk about alternate payment methods (personal credit cards directly paying into our Stripe payment platform, for example) in time for the start of the game. If no payment is received or some alternate arrangement agreed, we may invalidate the player codes.
Q: Can I get a refund if I don't compete?
Q: How do I register for NCL?
A: SEE FLOWCHART HERE .
Q: The NCL site references ‘teams’ and ‘groups.’ What’s the difference?
A: "Team" refers to students who compete together in the team-component of the competition. "Group" refers to a set of students who are being advised by a coach. The coach can see the performance of anyone in the group.
Q: How do you use the code your coach gave you?
A: If your coach DID pay for you, then you need to click "GAME CODE" to register. The code they gave you is a GAME CODE, which gives you access to the NCL Spring Season and automatically links you with them.
Q: I have a GAME CODE, but registration has closed. Can I still register?
A: Yes. If you have a GAME CODE, it has been purchased for you during the registration period. Students with a GAME CODE for the Spring Season can register anytime during the season, even after the Individual Game and Team Game to gain access to the gym. Students failing to register in time for the mandatory Preseason Game risk exclusion from the Individual Game. Students with a Team GAME CODE must redeem their code no later than the date posted on the season schedule.
A: If your coach did NOT pay for you, then you got a PAIRING LINK that is used to pair you with your coach. You need to click on "Student Player" to register and pay for yourself, then use the link to confirm the pairing.
Q: How can I link my account to my coach?
A: If your coach paid for your registration, this is automatically done when you redeem the GAME CODE. If you are paying for your own registration, you need to get a PAIRING LINK from your coach and access it after you have registered for NCL to confirm the pairing.
Q: Who should register?
A: Everyone. All registered players and coaches will receive new credentials for both the Gymnasium and Stadium environments. This includes those players and coaches that have participated in previous NCL seasons.
Note to coaches: see questions below specifically for you.
Q: What is an NCL-sanctioned Cyber Gymnasium?
A: The NCL Gymnasium is part of the same gaming system used throughout the season, and is accessed via the same credentials as the games. The NCL Gym contains a series of exercises representative of the upcoming games and is intended to help player participation as well as facilitate learning how to use the gaming environment.
Q: How do players get access the NCL Gymnasiums?
A: Players need to register, whereupon the credentials created at registration may be used to access both the NCL Gym and NCL Games.
Q: How do coaches get access the exercises in the NCL Gymnasium?
A: Coaches access the NCL Gym and respective exercises in the same manner as the players, via the credentials obtained at registration.
Q: What are the roles of an NCL coach?
Getting first-time competitors interested and confident
Keeping veteran competitors interested and confident
Facilitating practice times and topics
Fielding technical and procedural questions
Building in team activities to build interpersonal communication skills amongst participants
Planning practices and competition events
Integrating specific competition topics/exercises into curriculum/Clubs
Getting buy-in and support from management, other faculty, etc.
Promoting cybersecurity awareness, NCL competitions, ethical behavior
Providing moral support and encouragement
Explaining the tie-in between the games and career opportunities
Reminding participants that they can develop some of the very specific skills employers are looking for
Ensuring that participants see this as more of a fun activity than as a chore
Q: Why are Coaches necessary?
A: Coaches serve as mentors and in some cases, drive the NCL activities for a school/organization (e.g., schedule meetings, pay for player NCL registration fees, etc.). Some schools/organizations have multiple coaches very involved in the NCL; others have none. During registration, you will be prompted to list a coach. If you do not have one or don't know your Coach, contact the NCL ().
Q: Does my coach have to be a full-time instructor?
Q: Can I have more than one coach?
A: Within the NCL registration and gaming system, you can have only one coach. Coaches can, at their discretion, share their coach account credentials to other ‘coaches.’ Coaches are advised to be reserved in sharing credentials. Access to the Coach Dashboard provides access to student progress and scores and is intended for faculty directly involved in student participant education.
Q: I'm a faculty/coach. How can I integrate the NCL Gym into my class(es)/Club activities?
A: To make it easier for coaches to integrate the NCL activities into their security-related classes and/or Club activities, the NCL has created various resources .
Examples of how to include the NCL in your classroom/training:
Make the exercises graded homework assignments, extra credit, or supplemental hands-on assignments to what you already use
Make participating in the Games extra credit, or count participation as graded assignments
Q: What is a Capture-the-Flag (CTF)?
A: Players will participate in a type of computer security game called a Capture-the-Flag (CTF). In CTF games, players race to answer security-related challenges, often searching for digital “flags" hidden on servers, in encrypted text, or in applications. Challenges within the CTF are open-ended and require expertise and skills in a wide range of security-related topics: computer forensics, cryptography, network penetration testing, web security, system/network administration, etc. When a player submits a flag, they receive points for solving the challenge. The player or team with the highest cumulative score at the end of the game wins.
Q: Where do the games take place?
A: The NCL games are conducted 100% using cloud‐based services. The challenges presented in the games are created and scored by Cyber Skyline.
Q: What if I have NCL Gym and Stadium login credentials from a previous NCL season??
A: Previous players will be able to use their login credentials of the Stadium from the previous NCL season to access both the NCL Gym and Stadium for the current season after registration.
Q: How do I prepare for a game?
A: Check out the resources .
Q: How many students compete in the NCL?
A: Over 5,000 students paid to compete in the 2018 NCL Fall season.
Q: Are the games for individuals or teams?
A: Both. The Preseason and Individual Games are designed for individuals. The Team Game is designed for teams.
Q: Do the players have to be physically located on their respective school/organization's campus for the games?
A: No. Players can compete anywhere they have Internet connectivity.
Q: How are teams formed?
A: School/organization teams may be created with 2 to 7 players. Schools/organizations with fewer than 2 players may negotiate a collaborative team with another school/organization. The NCL can help facilitate the formation of these collaborative teams. Schools/organizations can have any number of teams play.
Q: How does scoring work?
A: Check out the scoring page .
Q: What knowledge and skills are the exercises and games developing and validating?
A: The diverse concepts that are included in the exercises and games include:
Open Source Intelligence: Utilize publicly available information such as search engines, public repositories, social media, and more to gain in-depth knowledge on a topic or target.
Scanning: Identify and use the proper tools to gain intelligence about a target including its services and potential vulnerabilities.
Enumeration and Exploitation: Identify actionable exploits and vulnerabilities and use them to bypass the security measures in code and compiled binaries.
Password Cracking: Identify types of password hashes and apply various techniques to efficiently determine plain text passwords.
Traffic Analysis: Identify malicious and benign network traffic to demonstrate an understanding of potential security breaches.
Log Analysis: Utilize the proper tools and techniques to establish a baseline for normal operation and identify malicious activities using log files from various services.
Wireless Security: Identify the security posture of wireless networks from network captures.
Cryptography: Identify techniques used to encrypt or obfuscate messages and leverage tools to extract the plain text.
Web Application Security: Identify actionable exploits and vulnerabilities and use them to bypass the security measures in online services.
Q: What if I've already completed the Security+ and Ethical Hacking courses/content?
A: Validate your skills by competing in the games.
Q: Will the NCL release my game scores publicly?
A: The top players will have their overall and individual scores of the various aforementioned competencies displayed on the NCL Leaderboard, which will be publicly available on the NCL site here.
Q: What is my Bracket?
A: Learn about the brackets here .