2019 US-Canada Rules & Guidelines

Competition Overview

NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the NYU Center for Cybersecurity are proud to present the CSAW 2019 Policy Competition. CSAW is the largest student-run cybersecurity event in the world, featuring international competitions, workshops, and industry events. Students from various educational backgrounds who are interested in the nexus of policy and emerging technological issues are invited to think critically about major cybersecurity policy issues affecting society. The Policy Competition cultivates an environment encouraging students, academics, and professionals to challenge the status quo and impact the cyber-policy industry by presenting their ideas to leaders within the field. 

Qualification Round Eligibility & Rules

1. Competitors must be students in an undergraduate or graduate degree program in the United States or Canada as of September 8, 2019.

a. Students in technical or certificate programs are permitted to participate provided that they are enrolled in their program by the listed date.
 b. Students are not required to be part of the same institution, program, or educational fields to participate. Interdisciplinary collaboration is encouraged. 

2. Teams of two (2) to four (4) students are permitted.

3. Professional Experience: Individuals with no more than 2 years of professional work experience in cybersecurity, policy, law and other related fields are permitted to participate. 

4. Competitors are required to submit a professional résumé and pledge to uphold the competition’s provisions on academic integrity and student conduct at registration.

Qualification Round Requirements

The qualification round of the competition has three (3) components: team registration, a policy brief, and a video. All teams have the potential to earn a total of 100 points. The top five (5) teams with the highest overall scores will be selected to participate in the final round competition.

Part 1: Team Registration – 5 Points – Deadline: Sunday, 15 September 2019,  Wednesday, 25 September, 11:59 PM EDT

Students must complete the Policy Registration Form (here), which requires the following:

1. A copy of all team members’ résumés/CVs (PDF versions only); and

2. A pledge by the entire team to uphold the competition’s provisions on academic integrity and student conduct. Please refer to the links below for more information on NYU’s Academic Integrity Pledge and NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Student Code of Conduct. 

a. NYU Academic Integrity Pledge
b. NYU Tandon Student Code of Conduct

There is no fee for registration.

Once registered, teams will be provided with a “team number” to be included in all submissions for the competition. 

Part 2: Video Submission – 40 points – Deadline: Tuesday 1 October 2019, 11:59 PM EDT 

Each team is required to submit a five-minute video presenting their proposed policy. This is a unique opportunity for teams to explain and present their policy to the Committee. Videos will be shared with final round judges should your team be selected to continue into the final round.

The video should not be a summary of the policy brief, rather it should complement the team’s proposal by providing an in-depth explanation of the short- and long-term vision for their proposal, as well as addressing anticipated questions that may arise from reading their proposal (e.g. legal precedents or lack thereof; current political climate and how that will affect their agenda; relationship with standing institutions and existing initiatives; etc.). The purpose of this component is to demonstrate the team’s presentation skills, professionalism, and ability to explain a complicated issue in a simplified and direct manner within a specific and limited timeframe.


1. All team members must physically appear in the video.

2. Any visuals complimenting the video must be clearly legible.

3. Policy presentations must be addressed to the team’s intended audience. The audience is a specific individual(s) who can take actionable steps to enact their policy (e.g. Secretary of State).

4. Video supplement to be submitted separately:

a. any slides included in the video; and

b. a transcript of what was said throughout the video.

Video grading rubric is accessible here

How to Submit your Video:

Videos must be uploaded to YouTube with privacy settings set to “Public.” Video links should be shared with the Organizers via the Google form (see below). Video links that do not work will be immediately nulled to 0 of 40 points. Please check that your link works prior to submission. 

All submissions must be titled as the following and submitted via Google forms (see below for link): TeamNumber_Topic_CSAW_PolicyVideo (e.g. TeamD1_DataSecurity_CSAW_PolicyVideo)

For instructions on uploading videos, please visit:

Part 3: Policy Brief Submission – 55 points –Tuesday 1 October 2019, 11:59 PM EDT

In addition to a video, each team is required to submit a 4 to 8 page policy brief along under the following guidelines:

  • Times New Roman
  • Size 12-font
  • Single Spaced
  • 1-inch margins
  • Chicago Style, 16th Edition citations

A policy brief is a concise summary of a particular issue and provides policy recommendations on how to best handle the problem. Its purpose is to make research findings easily digestible to various audiences, but most frequently stakeholders and other policymakers in government. For this reason, policy briefs are generally aimed at government policymakers and those who influence or formulate policy.

The following components should be included in your policy brief in the following order:

1. Executive Summary including Header (see sample below)

2. Context or Scope of the Problem

a. Brief background on the issue at hand

i. Teams have the freedom to decide which aspect they would like to focus on, but must address a particular aspect of a topic.

b. Identifying key stakeholders (foreign and American)

 c. Identifying audience

i. This is an individual who can take actionable steps to your policy. Their names should be included in the header’s “To” and “CC” sections.

3. Policy Alternatives (or options)

4. Policy Recommendations

a. Timeline of proposal

b. Potential setbacks you anticipate with your proposal

c. Funding information

d. Legal parameters

e. Business analysis (if applicable)

5. Appendices

6. Bibliography

The Executive Summary is often one page, or one to two paragraphs, and provides an overview of the problem and proposed policy action. The cover page and bibliography of your policy brief will not be counted as part of your page count. All teams are permitted two complementary pages for their appendices that will not be part of their page count limit. Any pages thereafter will be included as part of the page count. Additionally, all sources must be credible and include a combination of news, academic, and report documents. The most successful policy briefs and memos usually have approximately 10 to 15 sources to support their claims. Any pages exceeding the eight-page limit will not be reviewed by the Committee or the final round judges. 

Executive Summary Header Sample:

To: David Stillwell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State
CC: Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State; David Hale, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, US State Department
From: East Asia Team 1
Subject: Policy proposals addressing territorial issues of the South China Sea

An online workshop will be hosted in August to discuss how briefs should be formatted and how to improve your policy recommendations. Recordings of the workshop will be available online for your reference as well.

Policy Brief Grading Rubric is accessible here

Here is a useful policy memo writing guide:

All submissions must be titled as the following and submitted via Google forms: TeamNumber_Topic_CSAW_PolicyBrief (e.g. TeamD1_DataSecurity_CSAW_PolicyBrief)

Cyber Security Policy Topics

Policy papers must focus on cybersecurity aspects of ONE of the following topics, which will be assigned to your team:

  1. Law Enforcement Investigations
  2. Data Security
  3. Cyberwarfare

A background paper has been prepared for each topic which outlines the parameters of the broader issue at hand. Background papers are accessible here

All teams will be asked to rank their preferred topics for the competition. Topic assignments will be given on a rolling basis and teams will be notified of their topic within a week of their registration.

To submit your video and policy brief, please complete this Google Form

Final Round Notification

Teams will be notified as to whether they have advanced to the final round by Monday, 7 October 2019, via email.

Those teams moving on to the final round will receive feedback from the Committee on how to improve their policy proposals for finals and recommendations for final presentations. This feedback should be incorporated into an updated policy memo and considered when preparing the final presentation. See “Final Round Requirements” for further details. 

Final Round Overview

Each team member will receive a Travel Award to CSAW to present their policy proposals to a panel of judges at NYU Tandon School of Engineering in Brooklyn, New York. Team members will be required to verify their university enrollment before receiving a Travel Award. 

Final Round Dates & Location

7 - 9 November 2019
NYU Tandon School of Engineering
6 MetroTech Center
Brooklyn, NY 11201 

Travel arrangements will be coordinated by NYU’s travel agency. For planning purposes, Finalists should arrive at NYU Tandon on Thursday, November 7. Presentations and the Award Ceremony will take place on Friday, November 8, and competitors will travel home on Saturday, November 9. 

Final Round Requirements

The Final Round has two required components with a submission deadline of Monday, 4 November 2019, 11:59 PM EST. No extensions will be given.

All materials will be submitted via a Google form, to be provided to finalists at a later date.

Part 1: Updated Final Policy Brief

After the first round, teams will receive feedback from the CSAW Committee regarding their policy proposal. Revised Executive Summaries and policy memos will be given to judges prior to the final round. In addition to be shared with judges, policy briefs may be shared with other CSAW sponsors or interested parties.

Part 2: Final Presentations

Teams are required to provide a presentation deck as a PowerPoint document. Other presentation formats, such as Prezi, PDFs, etc., are not permitted. All presentations must be submitted to the Committee via Google Form. 

Presentation Rules:

1. Each team will have 20 minutes for their presentation followed by 5 minutes of questions from the panel of judges.

2. After the initial 5 minutes of the team’s presentation, judges will be allowed to interrupt the presentations to ask questions.

3. Teams will be assessed by a panel of judges following a grading guideline provided by the Committee. These guidelines will be presented to teams when finalists are announced.

4. Presentations are open to the public.

The Committee will host a webinar as the competition date approaches to discuss the details of the final round. Date and time are TBD. 

Travel Awards & Prizes

Travel Awards to be presented to each team advancing to the Final Round. The Travel Award includes transportation via train, plane, or bus to New York City, hotel room, and most meals. Students will be informed of all specific costs covered when they are invited to finals.

Prizes will be awarded as followed (to be distributed in late November 2019): 

  • First Place Team: $1,000
  • Second Place Team: $750
  • Third Place Team: $500
Disclosure of Entry Distribution

In addition to being shared with judges, policy briefs and videos may be shared with CSAW sponsors or other interested parties. Winning entries may be used as examples for future competitors. 

Mailing List 

Policy registrants will be automatically added to the CSAW mailing list. This list is used to provide occasional updates on CSAW and to promote cybersecurity related events being organized by CSAW regional partner schools. CSAW will not rent, sell, or share emails with non-partner schools or other entities or organizations. Registrants can opt-out of the mailing list at anytime.

Contact the Policy Competition Committee

Please direct your inquiries to