Calling All Hackers: ‘Hack the Pentagon’ Is Now Open

March 31, 2016, 10:30 PM UTC
Defense Secretary Ash Carter Announces New Quality Of Life Military Reforms
ARLINGTON, VA - JANUARY 28: U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announces new regulations that the military hopes will increase retention of troops that want to have families while preserving readiness during a news conference at the Pentagon January 28, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia. In a move to make the military 'a family friendly employer,' Carter announced that all women in the military will have 12 weeks of paid maternity leave, men will be given 14 days of paid paternity leave, and the start of a pilot program to help troops freeze eggs and sperm for future use. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Ready your keyboards, hackers.

The Pentagon has opened registration for its pilot computer bug bounty program. The United States Department of Defense will pay people in return for the vulnerabilities they find in its public facing websites.

Many top tech companies including Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT), and Facebook (FB)—but notably not Apple (AAPL)—already run bug bounty programs of their own. However, this is the first of its kind for the federal government.

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“This initiative will put the department’s cybersecurity to the test in an innovative, but responsible way,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in a statement. (Carter first announced the initiative at the RSA Conference, a cybersecurity industry confab held earlier this month.) “I encourage hackers who want to bolster our digital defenses to join the competition and take their best shot,” he said.

The government has history of debuting infamously buggy websites, spanning from faulty online tools at the IRS, to the disaster at By incentivizing hackers to find flaws before they cause a crisis, the defense department could begin to nip such problems in the bud.

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The department did not disclose the sum of bounty payouts, although it said that it would draw from a pool of $150,000 in funding set aside for rewards. The competition officially begins April 18 and extends through May 12.

The Defense Department has enlisted HackerOne—a bug bounty startup that spun out of Facebook, and that runs similar programs for Twitter (TWTR), Adobe (ADBE), Yahoo (YHOO), and most recently Uber—to manage the pilot.

The department said it will screen anyone who submits a valid computer bug report. Participants will be able opt out of that criminal background check, the department said, adding that they will also forfeit any potential reward.

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