Hacking into a federal website would typically be grounds for a lengthy prison sentence, but the U.S. government recently announced that it will actually be rewarding anyone who can find a weak spot in its coding.
According to Fox News, the Department of Defense is preparing to host the first-ever “Hack the Pentagon” competition. As part of the program, vetted hackers will be allowed and encouraged to attack the government’s cybersecurity systems in hopes of finding a flaw that can be improved upon.
In a statement announcing the competition, the Department of Defense revealed that a select group of hackers will participate in a “controlled, limited duration program that will allow them to identify vulnerabilities on a predetermined department system.”
“I am always challenging our people to think outside the five-sided box that is the Pentagon,” said Ash Carter, U.S. Secretary of Defense. “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.”
Protecting information is essential for businesses, and several major corporations have held similar competitions in the past several years. However, “Hack the Pentagon” will mark the first time in history that the federal government has sponsored an event of this nature.
Industry experts generally agree that this is a positive step forward for the government. Hackers are preying on federal websites every second of the day, and addressing these cybersecurity issues now could prevent a more serious attack in the future.
Todd Beardsley, security research manager at cybersecurity specialist Rapid 7, is also welcoming the Pentagon’s forward-thinking with open arms.
“The acknowledgement from the Pentagon that open and free security assessments on its websites are valuable, and even encouraged, is a huge step forward for the DoD and the U.S. government,” Beardsley said.
According to Reuters, Defense Secretary Ash Carter was also critical of the military’s cybersecurity tactics, adding that they are “not getting good grades across the enterprise.”
“We can’t just keep doing what we’re doing. The world changes too fast, our competitors change too fast,” Carter said.
“Hack the Pentagon” is being led by the DoD’s Defense Digital Service, which has promised to reveal more details about the competition next week. Hackers that take part in the event could be eligible for financial prizes and other recognition if they’re successful in cracking the government’s cyber code.
There’s no guarantee that any of the hackers will be able to accomplish anything of substance, but the mere idea that the government has sponsored such an event has certainly impressed many in the cyber world.