The Cyber 9/12 UK Strategy Challenge, funded by the Atlantic Council, is designed to identify and foster the next generation of policy and strategy leaders for the cyber security challenges of the future.

Video: Courtesy of Atlantic Council

Part interactive learning experience and part competitive scenario exercise, it challenges teams to respond to a realistic, evolving cyberattack, analyze the threats and risks and then propose effective mitigating policies and strategies to panels of expert judges. Over two days, the scenario evolves through 3 judging rounds into a grand final in front of a panel of senior cyber security leaders and all the other competitors.

Cyber 9/12 UK occurs on the 17th-18th February, and IMSISS has three teams competing this year: CS27001, LightCyber and Unanimous. All students competing in London are from our 2019-21 cohort. These teams were coached by University of Glasgow lecturer, Dr Damien van Puyvelde.


Team CS27001 is composed of 2019-21 IMSISS students Ashley, Smera , Livia and Christie.

Cybersecurity affects everyone. Since the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a safe and secure cyber domain has become a prerequisite for the preservation of fundamental individual rights, such as privacy, and also a crucial element of economic prosperity and political integrity. Owing to its paramount importance in society, the digital world is increasingly being abused. The potential of utilization of an arsenal of digital weapons to attack states, infrastructure, institutions, and values has become a major threat to global security.

We, Ashley, Smera, Christie, and Livia, want to actively contribute to a more prosperous and secure world. We are confident that our existing knowledge, strengths, and talents combined will be enhanced through real-time simulation exercises and will help yield new inputs to the approach of cyber threats. Therefore, we are excited to participate in the 2020 Cyber 9/12 Challenge in London.

Together, the four of us possess a range of skills allowing us to deal efficaciously with the broad spectrum of challenges in this domain. While sharing a passion for security in general, and cybersecurity in particular, our diverse backgrounds, both technical and non-technical, allow us to draw on strong professional and academic competencies in political, economic, technological and communication affairs.

Ashley contributes strong business and technical analysis skills developed and refined over nearly a decade of education and work experience in the field of Information Technology. His former role as an IT business analyst and project manager for one of the UK’s largest defense organisations, complemented by previous military experience, provides a sound technical understanding of the different aspects of implementing an international computer system from which we can base our policy recommendations.

Having a multi-disciplinary background in History, Politics, and Economics, Smera has developed a sense of practical analysis through professional work. During her employment at a leading think tank, she conducted research on various geopolitical issues alongside prominent academicians and policymakers. This has been further honed by participation in conferences and roundtable meetings such as the Security 360 and the Policy Colloquium on Security organised by the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) of Indian Intelligence.

Christie further accentuates the teams already heavily multidisciplinary professional and academic background. Having past completed studies in psychology, criminology, governance and public policy, she complements the team with her acquired research skills and broad content knowledge to help with understanding cyber crime at a behavioural and criminological level. She also has professional history, working within a multinational tech company, with insights of how these private enterprises face daily security adversaries, both physical and technological. She provides well rounded professional skills, such as public speaking, working in teams and competencies in working in high pressure environments.

Livia disposes of strong research skills, acquired through her degree combining Political Science, Philosophy, and languages. As a former researcher in the security field, she is accustomed to identifying reliable sources when information is scarce, processing it analytically, and providing leaders with a solid foundation for their decisions, even in moments of imminent crisis and severe time pressure.

This aggregation of individual skills and experiences, both academic and professional in nature, allows this international team to stand out. The multinational composition of the team can be instrumental in offering a plethora of positions, allowing for an unrestricted approach to teamwork-based solution-finding. Moreover, the guidance and knowledge of all the professors of the IMSISS programme, honed under your leadership and direction, will provide the team with all the tools necessary for a challenge of this magnitude.

Our determination to develop a deeper understanding of security in order to fill lacunae in the domain of cyber policy making will work as a catalyst for change; not merely restricted to this exercise, but with possible application in future national strategy documents. We feel privileged to represent and promote IMSISS on the Cyber 9/12 Challenge and hopefully secure a world that is prosperous for everyone.


Team LightCyber is composed of Emma van Heeswijk, Francis de Satge, Johanna Cottin, and Maarten Visser.

The members of Team LightCyber come from diverse academic and professional backgrounds. Francis is a South African alumnus of the University of Cape Town, with a background in Political Science and government policy, and Emma is an experienced qualitative researcher with a background in cultural anthropology and development sociology. Johanna is an award-winning filmmaker, with an academic background in Development Studies and Public Health concerns, and Maarten has many years of experience in the corporate world of tax law. The Team takes the challenge as a great opportunity to deepen their interest in Cyber Security and use their varying perspectives to address this expanding security threat.


Team Unanimous is composed of Gilles de Valk, Jessica Poon, Maria Patricia Bejarano Carbo and Zulaika Ubysheva.

Jessica Poon

Jessica has 5 years of experience working in research and business intelligence roles for tech SMEs. Her paper titled ‘The Art of Warring Networks: Critical Strategies of Self-Representation in the Post-Internet Condition’ was published in an anthology by isthisit? an artist collective from East London. She subsequently presented an accompanying lecture at King’s College London as part of their conference on Resisting Digital Culture. She graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2015. 

Gilles de Valk

Gilles is from the Netherlands and holds a bachelor’s degree in European Studies. During his BA, he focused on (geo)politics in Central and Eastern Europe and went on exchange to the Saint Petersburg State University. Beside his studies, he has been an intern at the Dutch Embassy in Kyiv (Ukraine) and at the Brussels based Netherlands house for Education and Research, which serves the interests of the Dutch education and research community at the EU.

Patricia Bejarano Carbo

Patricia holds a BA in Business Administration and BA in International Relations and is currently pursuing an IntM in Security, Intelligence and Strategic Studies. Her past professional experience in multinational corporations and organisations have influenced her research focus, which combines security issues with economic interests and their implications. She is also interested in issues of privacy and emerging cyber threats, such as deepfakes.

Zulaika Ubysheva

Zulaika Ubysheva has two years of experience in the non-profit sector, including international organizations, working with different social and development projects, and earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and International Comparative Politics.  Currently she is pursuing her Masters in Security, Intelligence and Strategic Studies with a concentration in conflict studies. Her enthusiasm for pursuing a career in conflict prevention and the peacebuilding area stems from her interest in working with youth and disadvantaged communities and her responsibility to make full use of her expertise and skills to help them acquire a better quality of life as every individual has a right to live in a safe, just, and peaceful environment. Her professional work within international organizations such as UNHCR and UNICEF, local NGOs and extensive community service at youth centers helped her to attain valuable field experience and acquire strong research, advocacy, communication, and project management skills.

More Information

For more information on the competition, follow Cyber 9/12 UK on Twitter and check out their website. IMSISS is committed to coaching and presenting teams to the competition each year (although participation is not guaranteed). There is no fee to compete in the competition, but IMSISS aims to help a select number of students participate in this competition each year. This year we also plan to submit teams to the Geneva competition.