Ever wanted to hack Uncle Sam?
Provided you’re American and can pass a background check, go right ahead, the Pentagon said Wednesday.
The US Department of Defense is inviting vetted hackers to test its cybersecurity under a pilot program that is the first of its kind in the federal government.
Called “Hack the Pentagon,” the so-called bug bounty program will give cash awards and other recognition to participants who can spot weaknesses on the Pentagon’s public web pages.
“I am always challenging our people to think outside the five-sided box that is the Pentagon,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said.
This “initiative will strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security.”
The pilot program is modeled after similar competitions conducted by major firms to improve network and product security.
A defense official said the project would be a cost-effective way of recruiting non-malicious “white hat” hackers to probe Pentagon vulnerabilities.
“We want to bring in great talent, we want to take advantage of people who have the ability to help the Department of Defense and the country,” the official said.
He noted that if successful, the program could be more broadly expanded across the federal government.
The Pentagon did not announce how much money would be paid out, but suggested that the bigger the vulnerability a hacker finds, the bigger the reward.
The Pentagon announced the initiative while Carter visited Silicon Valley in California on Wednesday.
It is his third trip to the world’s tech heartland and he has repeatedly stressed the need for the Pentagon to innovate and work with tech partners.
Carter also announced plans to establish a “Defense Innovation Advisory Board” that will be chaired by Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
The board will give Pentagon leaders independent advice on ways to address “future organizational and cultural challenges, including the use of technology alternatives,” Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook said in a statement.