Q: What is the NCL?
A: The NCL is a non-profit - 501(c)(3) - 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 cyber competitions exist. What’s missing from the current cyber exercise landscape is a regular season that allows both 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. 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/or programming/scripting.

Q: What does it cost to participate/play in the NCL?
A: To advance event sustainability, there is a registration fee of $25 per individual to participate in the Preseason and Regular Season and $25 per team for Postseason play.

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: Can I get a refund if I don't compete in the Spring Season?
A: No

Q: Who needs to register for the 2017 NCL Spring Season?
A: Everyone. There are two separate registrations for the Spring Season: one for the Preseason & Regular seasons, where participants compete on their own; and a second registration period for the portion of the NCL geared towards teams of participants (AKA the Postseason).

All registered players and coaches will receive new credentials for both the Gymnasium and Stadium environments after both registration periods close (see Calendar for more specific dates on when credentials are sent and when both the Gym and Stadium platforms open). 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 Gymnasium?
A: The NCL Gyms are virtual learning environments located throughout the U.S. that are comprised of systems-integrated software and hardware. They are connected to libraries of lab exercises and virtual machines and are accessible remotely from anywhere, anytime to help players develop knowledge and practice skills. Registered players can use any of the Gyms to work on the preparatory lab exercises 24x7.

Q: How do players get access to the hosted lab exercises in the NCL Gymnasiums?
A: Players need to register. After the registration period ends, players get credentials and instructions for accessing the Gym(s).

Q: How do coaches get access to the hosted lab exercises in the NCL Gymnasiums?
A: Coaches should send an email with their name, email address, and college/organizational affiliation to info [at] nationalcyberleague [dot] org to request access to the remote lab exercises.

Q: Where do I go to get help with the lab exercises?

A: See the Lab Exercises page

Q: What is the NCL Stadium?

A: The NCL Stadium, powered by Cyber Skyline, is a simulated environment where the game challenges are located. In some cases, participants need their own system and tools to complete some of the challenges. For example, participants are given a .PCAP file and asked for the IP address of the attacker, based on the traffic in the file. Participants would download the .PCAP file and analyze it "offline" (on their own system) and once they have the answer, submit it to the scoring engine for points. Other challenges can be completed within the Stadium environment itself.


Q: What if I have NCL Gym and Stadium login credentials from a previous NCL season?

A: The NCL will be creating new login credentials for both the Gym and Stadium environments and sending them based on the Spring Season schedule. You will use these newly created credentials for the 2017 NCL Spring Season.

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/lab 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 (info [at] nationalcyberleague [dot] org).

Q: Does my coach have to be full time instructor?
A: No. 

Q: I'm a faculty/coach. How can I integrate the lab exercises and games 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 lab 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

  • Use sample challenges as Game prep 


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: They take place in the NCL Stadium.


Q: Where are the game rules located?

A: See the rules that govern the Preseason, Regular Season, and Postseason play.

Q: How do I prepare for a game?
A: Check out the preparation page.

Q: Are the games for individuals or teams?
A: Both. The Preseason and Regular season games are designed for individuals. The Postseason 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 3 to 10 players. Schools/organizations with fewer than 5 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. Each team must pay a $25 team fee to play.

Q: How does scoring work?
A: Check out the scoring page.

Q: What knowledge and skills are the lab exercises and games developing and validating?
A: The diverse concepts that are included in the lab exercises and games include:

  • Open Source Intelligence

  • Scanning

  • Enumeration

  • Penetration Testing

  • Traffic Analysis

  • Log Analysis

  • Wireless Security

  • Cryptography

  • Web Application Security


Q: What if I've already completed the Security+ and Ethical Hacking courses/content?
A: You can always learn something new. Continue to develop knowledge and validate your skills by competing in the NCL.

Q: Will the NCL release my game scores publicly?
A: The top players within each Conference 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.

See more about the Bracket and Conferences here.




Registration Closing Soon for Virtual Cybersecurity Competition

March 13, 2020

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