Pentagon employing hackers to try to break into DoD systems

( In an effort to improve cyber defenses of its own IT systems, the Pentagon is taking a cue from private industry: Employing “white hat” hackers to find vulnerabilities in the Department of Defense’s sensitive cyber domains.

As reported by the Washington Free Beacon, DoD announced last week the launch of its “Hack the Pentagon” initiative, in which pre-screened hackers will be given a chance to penetrate systems.

“The ‘Hack the Pentagon’ initiative is the first cyber bug bounty program in the history of the federal government,” said Defense spokesman Peter Cook.

The DoD is tasking qualified hackers to “conduct vulnerability identification and analysis on the department’s public webpages” as part of a massive hacking exercise. The initiative is similar to what happens in the private sector.

“The pilot marks the first in a series of programs designed to test and find vulnerabilities in the department’s applications, websites, and networks,” according to Cook.

Hackers will be screened first by Defense and intelligence agencies before they are allowed to participate in the program, officials noted. They will have to submit to background checks and other security measures.

“Once vetted, these hackers will participate in a controlled, limited duration program that will allow them to identify vulnerabilities on a predetermined department system,” the Pentagon said. “Other networks, including the department’s critical, mission-facing systems will not be part of the bug bounty pilot program.”



Hackers who successfully penetrate DoD systems will be given a cash prize.

In discussing the initiative, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he welcomed the hacking attempts.

“I am always challenging our people to think outside the five-sided box that is the Pentagon,” he said in a statement. “Inviting responsible hackers to test our cybersecurity certainly meets that test.

“I am confident this innovative initiative will strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security,” he added.

The “Hack the Pentagon” initiative is being led by the department’s Defense Digital Service (DDS), launched by Secretary Carter last November, the Pentagon said in a statement. The DDS, an arm of the White House’s dynamic cadre of technology experts at the U.S. Digital Service, includes a small team of engineers and data experts meant to improve the department’s technological agility.

“Bringing in the best talent, technology and processes from the private sector not only helps us deliver comprehensive, more secure solutions to the DoD, but it also helps us better protect our country,” said DDS Director and technology entrepreneur Chris Lynch.

The initiative is part of the administration’s Cyber National Action Plan announced on Feb. 9, which prioritizes near-term actions to improve our cyber defenses and codifies a long-term strategy to enhance cybersecurity across the U.S. government, the Pentagon said.

See also:

Pentagon Statement

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