DOD launches ‘Hack the Pentagon’ program

The Pentagon said on Wednesday it is seeking outside hackers to test the military’s cyber defenses as part of a first-of-its-kind pilot program, Reuters reported.

The initiative, dubbed “Hack the Pentagon,” is akin to the increasingly popular “bug bounty” programs seen at major tech firms such as Google.

{mosads}Under these programs, hackers are offered rewards for locating network security vulnerabilities that cyber criminals or spies may be able to exploit.

“I am confident that this innovative initiative will strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said in a statement.

The Pentagon said monetary awards may be offered to participants but that details were still being worked out. Thousands of people are expected to take part in Hack the Pentagon, said one senior defense official.

To qualify for the program, participants must be U.S. citizens and submit to a background check. Sensitive networks and weapons systems will not initially be open to the hackers.

“The goal is not to compromise any aspect of our critical systems, but to still challenge our cybersecurity in a new and innovative way,” the senior official told Reuters.

The Pentagon made the announcement as Carter and other top officials are on a swing through Silicon Valley to make speeches and meet with tech executives.

Carter said the trip is part of the military’s efforts to “rebuild bridges between the Department of Defense and some of our nation’s most innovative industries.”

The two sides have been at odds since former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 revealed through a series of leaks the extent of the government’s secret surveillance efforts.

But the Defense Department has set its sights on Silicon Valley as a major talent pool for developing its cyber team. The Pentagon is in the midst of building out the half-staffed U.S. Cyber Command. The cyber division is expected to reach 6,200 personnel across 133 teams by 2018.


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