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Pentagon Asks Hackers to Search for Security Breaches in Pilot Project

By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on March 07, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Pentagon just announced this week that it would invite outside hackers who'd been pre-vetted by the U.S. D.O.D. to try their best to crack the cyber-defenses of its websites.

According to Reuters, this is the first project of this kind hosted by the federal government.

"Hack the Pentagon"

The so-called "Hack the Pentagon" project is modeled in spirit on the bug-bounty competitions conducted by many international and US companies who are looking to discover weaknesses in their security. The idea is to find potential breaches in the code so that they can be shored up or fixed before malicious third party hackers can find those weaknesses.

Ash Carter's Assessment: the Time Has Come

Defense Sec. Ash Carter lauded the initiative as good for the Pentagon and good for America. He said that it was time for the Pentagon to learn from private industry, particularly since the military has fallen woefully behind everyone else with regards to cyber-security. "We can't just keep doing what we're doing," he said. "The world changes too fast; our competitors change too fast." He's not kidding, the world is getting a lot smaller, fast.

In the past, the Pentagon would employ "Red Teams" to test systems security. But the pilot program would allow computing talent from across the nation to get in on the game, thereby allowing the Pentagon to find the finest of holes that only the most talented hackers could reveal -- and that talent could be anywhere. The new project is essentially the red teams on steroids.

Wanna Join?

Participants in the Penta-Hack must be U.S. citizens and will have to register and submit to a background check. Once cleared, they will be let loose on a computer system not connected to more sensitive government networks -- like weapons programs. The program is being run by the Pentagon's Defense Digital Service (DDS) which was born just last year to bring private contracting talent in with the military. 

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