By invite only

Pentagon Paper

Today’s battles aren’t always fought on the ground, air, and sea, they take place over the Internet, too. To help ensure that it’s equipped to fend off sophisticated cyber attacks, the U.S. Department of Defense is inviting vetted hackers to come “Hack the Pentagon.”

This is a first for the U.S. government. You can think of it as a bug bounty program, only not everyone is invited to come root out vulnerabilities. Under the pilot program, only qualified individuals are being invited to look for bugs on the government’s public webpages.

“This project is a demonstration of my continued commitment to drive the Pentagon to identify new ways to improve DoD’s security measures as our interests in cyberspace evolve. 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 Ash Carter, Secretary of Defense.

As you can imagine, this is a highly controlled program. Those invited must register and submit to a background check. Once they’ve been fully vetted, they’ll go to work rooting out bugs in a “controlled, limited duration program” on specific targets.

The government’s more sensitive networks, like weapons programs, won’t be part of the pilot program. Whether or not the program expands to include deeper access to more critical corners of the government’s online presence remains to be seen.

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

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