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11 Dec 2019
United Nations Event on Cybersecurity Challenge
United Nations Event on Cybersecurity Challenge: Countering Digital Terrorism with Young People

On 5 and 6 December 2019, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre (UNCCT) of the of the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT), the UN Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT), the UN Technology Innovation Labs (UNTIL) and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) organized a Cybersecurity Challenge – Countering Digital Terrorism.

The challenge’s objective was to find solutions to counter terrorist use of new technologies, engaging youth in the process. Teams could apply to develop solutions that would target especially African, South and South East Asia regions, to address online terrorist activities like spread of terrorist content online. Young people between the age of 18 and 38 years could globally apply as teams.

“I’m counting on you to come up with ideas that can be galvanized into solutions for one of the major challenges of the modern digital era, the cybersecurity threat,” said the UN Assistant Secretary-General and Chief Information and Technology Officer Ms. Atefeh Riazi in a video message to the 35 young people from 16 countries grouped into 13 teams that participated in the Cybersecurity Innovation Challenge Finals in Vienna, Austria.

During the event, the teams further developed their solutions, in cooperation with mentors, technology partners and subject-matter experts who provided hands-on assistance to enhance their ideas.

The winning team from Singapore presented a “PowerShell in a USB stick” solution that can be used to collect forensic data from computing equipment used by terrorists. By plugging the USB in the hardware, data is harvested and ready for analysis. This solution is OpenSource and UNTIL is planning to review it with the help of the OICT Digital Blue Helmets Team (DHB -, before possibly engaging in supporting the team in one of the UNTIL Labs.

“We at OICT and UNTIL see the importance of engaging youth in cybersecurity,” said Mr. Maurizio Gazzola, Chief of Strategic Solutions and Head of the Global UNTIL Programme. “Young people have hands-on experience with a range of digital tools they use daily and they are more and more aware of the risks of using these tools. Young people are a great partner in fighting digital terrorism. That’s the reason we agreed to work with UNOCT and organize this two-day event with two main goals: raise awareness and find digital solutions that could be supporting the counter terrorism efforts.”

Terrorist misuse of new technologies target and exploit youth more than other age demographics. Therefore, engagement with youth in cybersecurity security projects is crucial. The challenge aimed to empower them to become part of the solution as agents of change, in line with relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions.

Background information:

OICT, the Office of Information and Communication Technology is responsible for defining strategic direction for Information and communications Technology (ICT) to the UN Secretariat. It provides oversight of ICT programmes, budgets and decision-making to ensure alignment with the Secretariat’s overall ICT strategy.

UNTIL, the OICT United Nations Technology Innovation Labs  Programme has the mission to leveraging emerging technology to transform societies, nations and humanity as a whole.

UNCCT is part of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force (CTITF) Office within the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT). It provides capacity building support for Member States in implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy through co-funded capacity building projects.

AIT, the Austrian Institute of Technology is Austria's largest research and technology organisation. Among the European research institutes, AIT is a specialist in the key infrastructure issues of the future. AIT provides research and technological development to realize basic innovations for the next generation of infrastructure related technologies in the fields of Energy, Mobility Systems, Low-Emission Transport, Health & Bioresources, Digital Safety & Security, Vision, Automation & Control and Technology Experience. These technological research areas are supplemented by the competence in the area of Innovation Systems & Policy.


Secretary General

"The advances of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including those brought on by a combination of computing power, robotics, big data and artificial intelligence, are generating revolutions in health care, transport and manufacturing.  
I am convinced that these new capacities can help us to lift millions of people out of poverty, achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and enable developing countries to leap‑frog into a better future."

23 March 2018, New York