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WVU Law Students Help U.S. Team Achieve Record Success at Cyber Exercise

The fields of cyberlaw and AI law may be relatively new, but West Virginia University College of Law students are already mastering them on an international stage. 

Locked Shields Team

Photographed from Left to Right: Captain Kyle Mohr, WV Air National Guard; Lieutenant Colonel C. Scott Applegate, WV National Guard; Ms. Jennelle Jones, WV Office of Technology; Major Alexander Willette, Maine National Guard; Major Brad Dorsey, WV Air National Guard; Captain Colin Kelly, WVU Law; Mr. Trevor Hinkle, WVU Law

Rising 3L Trevor Hinkle and recent grad Colin Kelly excelled last month in Locked Shields 2024, the world’s largest and most complex international live-fire cyber defense exercise organized by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) every spring since 2010. Kelly, from Ashburn, VA, is on Active Duty with the U.S. Army in the Funded Legal Education Program. Hinkle, of Morgantown, WV, is a veteran of the WV Air National Guard. These students joined about 4000 experts from more than 40 countries who participated in this year’s Locked Shields.

WVU served as the host site for the more than 190 cyber experts and representatives from across the Department of Defense, federal and state agencies, academia, and the private sector who were led by Joint Force Headquarters – Department of Defense Information Network, also known as JFHQ-DODIN, and remotely connected to the simulated environment in Tallinn, Estonia.

Locked Shields is a red team vs. blue team exercise where the blue teams take on the role of national cyber rapid reaction teams that are deployed to assist a fictional country in handling a large-scale cyber incident against national infrastructure. The JFHQ-DODIN led Blue Team mission operations took place at the Coliseum with University faculty and staff filling key roles alongside an array of U.S. players and partner country participants in Montenegro and Norway.

As part of their work on the “Blue Team,” in the competition, Kelly and Hinkle were tasked with analyzing how a hypothetical scenario would interact with the recently enacted European Union AI Act. Both were enrolled at the time in Professor Amy Cyphert’s AI and the Law class at the College of Law, which covered the EU AI Act. Kelly and Hinkle’s legal analysis helped their team earn a perfect score on the legal section of the exercise. 

Ultimately, JFHQ-DODIN’s Blue Team placed second for the legal aspect of the competition, which is the highest the JFHQ-DODIN’s Blue Team legal team has ever placed. The judges weren’t the only ones who were impressed: Lieutenant Colonel C. Scott Applegate, the Legal Team Lead for the JFHQ-DODIN Blue Team, noted that Kelly and Hinkle did an “exceptional job” and “made invaluable contributions to the team and exercise. In a challenging environment, their work ethic, contagious energy, and sagacious analysis help us achieve overwhelming success.” 

Hinkle and Kelly were joined on the JFHQ-DODIN Blue Team by WVU students from the Chambers College of Business and Economics, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, and Reed College of Media. WVU students competed in partnership with the JFHQ-DODIN, The West Virginia National Guard, and numerous other public and private sector entities, and military branches, as well as partner nations, Norway and Montenegro.

Both Hinkle and Kelly were quick to note that their success was truly a team effort. “Due to Professor Cyphert's outstanding guidance throughout this year's AI and the Law course, as well as Lieutenant Colonel C. Scott Applegate's leadership during Exercise Locked Shields 2024, Colin and I were able to make significant contributions towards the success of this year's legal team,” said Trevor. Colin added “Trevor and I were excited to see a legal prompt centering around AI law used in the competition. We knew that we had to take the lead on it for the team due to all of the time we spent rigorously studying this exact subject in Professor Cyphert's AI and the Law course.” 

Professor Cyphert was thrilled but not surprised to learn of Trevor and Colin’s success. “WVU Law students work hard to master challenging concepts in AI and the Law, and Trevor and Colin were able to put their knowledge to work in real time. I’m so proud of them, and of how WVU Law is a leader in its AI and Law offerings.”

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