What’s New at NCL 2019?!

For the first time ever, the National Cyber League is making the registration process easier than ever! Now, with one registration and one fee, you get access to

  • The NCL Gym
  • The Pre-season Game
  • The Individual Competition
  • The Team Competition

Now these are new terms so I want to make sure it’s clear for everyone.

The Gym

The Spring 2019 Gym is open from Thursday, March 28th, through Friday, May 24th. This is a practice arena where you will see some of the same content from season to season.

As a new player, it’s a great place to get your feet wet. There are challenges from former NCL seasons with optional instructions on how to solve the challenges.

As a returning player, it gives you a place to warm-up before the actual games as well as a place to try new techniques for solving challenges you already have seen before. You can use this playground to try new tools, new approaches, and hone your skills.

The Pre-season Game

Pre-season remains the same as it always has. The pre-season games will open on Monday, April 1st, and will run through Tuesday, April 8th, and it’s a MANDATORY game where you will be tested to see your current skill level. This will determine your bracket assignments for the remainder of the season.

The top 15% of all competitors who compete in the pre-season game will be in the coveted Gold bracket. The remainder of the top 50% of competitors who compete in pre-season will be assigned to the silver bracket. Everyone else who competes in pre-season will be placed in the bronze bracket.

Any student player who does not compete in the pre-season games and all coaches will be assigned to the Pewter bracket. Pewter bracket is removed from the final rankings and will NOT receive a scouting report. You can see more about the Importance of the NCL Scouting Report in my previous post.

The Individual Competition

Formerly called the “Regular Season”, the Individual Game is a student’s chance to shine. Starting on Friday, April 12th, and running through Sunday, April 14th, the Individual Game is for all the marbles. This is the game that matters since the results are what is published in your scouting report and the leaderboard!

The challenges are Capture-the-Flag style based on the CompTIA Security+ and the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker (CEH) certifications, but unlike most other competitions, they are divided (and clearly labeled) by the following competency areas:

  • Open Source Intelligence
  • Cryptography and Steganography
  • Log Analysis
  • Network Traffic Analysis
  • Scanning and Reconnaissance
  • Password Cracking
  • Wireless Access Exploitation
  • Web Application Exploitation
  • Enumeration and Exploitation

Even better, they are labeled as EasyMedium, and Hard throughout the competition. This helps beginning Cybersecurity Experts (the college students this competition was designed for) the ability to measure their own progress through each competency area.

Additionally, the NCL is unique in the fact that it gives immediate feedback on each question when a cyber-athlete enters an answer (called an attempt). If it’s not correct, NCL allows the student multiple attempts to get the correct answer.  This allows a student to struggle and LEARN along the way.

The most important thing to remember for this section of the games is to take care of yourself! It’s easy to get so sucked into the games you forget to eat and drink. I recommend stocking your workstation with water and snacks.

The Team Competition

Formerly called the Post-season games, the Team Competition is now a part of your initial registration fee. The NCL Team Competition begins on Friday, April 26th through Sunday, April 24th and allows students to collaborate and share the knowledge they each learned throughout the season by having a TEAM competition. This has been invaluable for me as a competitor. I’ve gotten to work with people that have different backgrounds and ways of thinking than me. I’ve learned different approaches to challenges I was successful in and I learned new approaches to challenges I didn’t even know where to begin on.

And college professors are realizing the importance of using these skills in less than ideal environments. When you learn this stuff in the lab, it’s in ideal conditions. You are given the perfect command to get the perfect result on the perfect target. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t perfect.

When you play NCL, you have to apply your skills and knowledge on a less than ideal target. You have to learn and adapt and figure out how to make it work no matter the obstacles. You gain a deeper understanding of what you are doing in a real and applicable situation. I’ve never understood what the commands I was running would do in a lab, but in NCL, I gain a mastery of skills I could apply in any situation I run into while working as a Cybersecurity professional.


The SWAG Shop has hoodies, polos, hats, and more and will open again for one week between the Individual and Team Games. Since it’s only going to be open from April 15th through April 24th, I recommend ordering as soon as you can!

Other News

Be on the lookout for an email from me! I will be emailing some top competitors with a special request.

We have all kinds of surprises in the works so stay tuned in to find out more.

Happy Hacking!


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