NORTHPORT, NY, April 22, 2015 – Cyber security education technology developed by Secure Decisions, the cyber security division of Applied Visions, Inc., will be part of the 2015 National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (NCCDC). Participants in this year’s competition will be required to create visually creative training materials using the unique ”CyberWISE” technology developed by Secure Decisions, with assistance from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Winners from 10 regional competitions will compete at NCCDC on managing and protecting the cyber infrastructure of a simulated commercial network. Teams are scored based on their ability to detect and respond to outside threats, maintain availability of existing services such as mail servers and web servers, respond to business requests such as the addition or removal of additional services, and balance security needs against business needs.

As part of this year’s competition, teams will have to develop a choose-your-own-adventure (CYOA) comic with a story that teaches employees at their organization how to recognize and respond to a phishing email. To create these CYOA comics, students will use the CyberWISE (Web-based Interactive Stories for Education) to simplify and accelerate the creation and delivery of interactive educational materials for teach safe computing. Developed under a contract funded by the Department of Homeland Security, Science & Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) to improve cyber security education, CyberWISE gives educators the ability to create instructive CYOA comics with no art expertise or programming skills.

The idea behind using CYOA comics to teach people how to avoid the latest threats to security and privacy is simple: comic readers play the role of a character, making decisions for the character that can change the direction of the storyline (e.g., for a story about smartphone safety, they can choose between “click on the app-download link in the email” or “go to the phone’s App store to download”). The results of these decisions can be disastrous in an outrageous, comic manner, keeping the reader engaged while showing both positive and negative consequences of their choices in a safe environment.

Choose your own adventure stories can educate readers, but people can also learn by creating the branching stories themselves. “Being able to create a CYOA comic requires a deep understanding of the subject matter; students will need to apply higher levels of critical thinking to correctly identify both positive and negative consequences linked to specific actions around a single decision point,” said Laurin Buchanan, Principal Investigator for CyberWISE. “In addition, by creating a comic to teach their “employees”, students demonstrate not only their understanding of technical issues, but that they can explain risky behaviors and consequences to a non-technical audience. The ability to effectively communicate with the human users of technology is a skill needed by all cyber security practitioners.”

During the competition, individual teams will each identify the specific skills and knowledge they want their “employees” to learn, then write a branching script that will present different choices leading to various outcomes. Students will identify both the quality (good to bad) and level of expertise (novice to expert) of the choices. After developing the branching script, teams will visually layout their story in a black and white storyboard. A panel of judges will review the stories created by participants and select a winner; the Secure Decisions team will then develop a full color comic of that story.

This work was funded under DHS S&T contract HSHQDC-14-C-B0019.

Additional Resources:
To learn more about CyberWISE, visit:

To learn more about the DHS Science & Technology research and technologies to protect the homeland, visit:

Secure Decisions Contact Info:
Secure Decisions
6 Bayview Avenue
Northport, NY 11768
(631) 759-3993
[email protected]

About Applied Visions and Secure Decisions
Secure Decisions was launched as a division of Applied Visions, Inc. (AVI) in 2000 to focus on cyber security and homeland security research and products. Today, Secure Decisions is a leader in security visualization with an established track record of R&D contracts, technology transition, and product development in areas such as cyber security education and visualizations for cyber defense, software assurance and test support services. Secure Decisions’ technologies such as Code Dx®, Code Pulse™, VIAssist™, and MeerCAT® are used to enhance the situational awareness of software developers and security professionals in government and commercial organizations. For more information, please visit


The views and conclusions contained herein are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies or endorsements, either expressed or implied, of Department of Homeland Security or the U.S. Government. All trademarks, trade names, service marks, and logos referenced herein belong to their respective parties.

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