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National Security Directorate

Pink Elephant Unicorn

PNNL will not be hosting a Pink Elephant Unicorn (PEU) event in Richland or Seattle until further notice. We experienced many successes over the past five years that we could not have achieved with the support of our PNNL colleagues, university and industry partners, and most importantly—our participants! The PEU team would like to thank everyone who has ever participated or helped—it takes a village. As we continue to look for external funding, we are actively pursuing a brand new and more challenging idea for next year.

In the meantime, we hope you will continue to engage with the cybersecurity learning and development community:

These websites are not sponsored by PNNL, except for the DOE Cyber Force Competition.

To contact the PEU team, please e-mail .

Pink Elephant Unicorn

Cyber security affects us all - from simple computer viruses to complex, targeted cyber-attacks. However few of us have the ability to recognize vulnerabilities in a network, implement measures to protect sensitive data, and prevent future malicious attacks.

Committed to advancing the field of cyber security, and building awareness of computer safety and security, PNNL created Pink Elephant Unicorn (PEU). This unique capture-the-flag event is open to the public, and provides training to build a cyber resilient community.

Learn more about the values and impact of Cyber Security competitions, which are a key component to solving major Cyber Security workforce demands. See Cybercompex for a list of additional competitions, however most of these are only online or very limited to college students or experts. PEU is unique in that it's a friendly competition where we accept all skill levels and assign everyone to teams to be fair, encourage collaboration, and have PNNL Cyber professionals teach tutorials and on hand to help participants learn.

Develop New Skills

This year's event will be NICE - meaning challenges are tailored to the NIST National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) Framework, exposing participants to real-world tasks, specialties, and work roles in cyber security.Read the summarized 1-pager about the framework or for more detailed information you can read more about the full framework.

PEU engages participants in simulated activities that require teams to work together to solve challenging cyber puzzles. Areas include:

  • Reverse engineering
  • Crypto analysis
  • Buffer overflow
  • Network defense
  • Social engineering
  • Web application security
  • Forensics
  • Cyber/physical security

Open to Anyone

The primary goal of PEU is for participants to learn about cyber security challenges in a fun, safe environment - regardless of skill or expertise. Participants leave the event with useful strategies for preventing attacks and protecting data. Participants include:

  • Students and professionals interested in careers in cyber security
  • Businesses who want to teach employees useful security practices
  • Skilled cyber security professionals looking to practice their skills and meet other professionals

Increase knowledge

Participants new to the field will gain first-hand experience in some of the challenges cyber professionals' face, while experts will get to practice their skills. With cyber-attacks becoming more complex, PNNL is empowering individuals to help improve the security of information networks and how to work as a team to recover from different security breaches.

PEU provides real-world examples of cyber threats and provide an interactive environment for testing, evaluating, and prototyping modern and future cyber security problems. PEU has paved the way for teaching and building a cyber workforce equipped with the necessary skills to combat cyber threats as well as making everyone more aware of the cyber threats we face.


Here are a few samples of tutorials from prior years.Starting in 2019, PEU tutorials will be more closely aligned to the puzzle categories to match the NIST NICE Framework. The Learning Objectives of the presentation will reference the Knowledge, Skills, and/or Abilities to perform the Tasks of a Cyber Professional. Sample challenges similar to those in the actual competition will be displayed, then the presenter will discuss possible approaches, demonstrate helpful tools and resources, then will walk through solving the puzzle. The PEU team highly encourages attending the tutorials that are offered prior to the event, so you can focus on practicing and learning the new skills with the help of your teammates and PNNL staff during the fun competition, however repeat offerings of the tutorials will be offered throughout the weekend event.

Learn more...

Leadership in Computing

National Security Directorate