Pentagon seeking hackers to stress-test computer systems

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is looking for a few good computer hackers.

Screened high-tech specialists will be brought in to try to breach the Defence Department's public Internet pages in a pilot program aimed at finding and fixing cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

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Defence officials laid out the broad outlines of the plan Wednesday, but had few details on how it will work, what Pentagon systems would be tested and how the hackers would be compensated.

Called "Hack the Pentagon," the program will begin next month. Department officials and lawyers still must work through a number of legal issues involving the authorization of so-called "white-hat hackers" to breach active Pentagon websites.

Defence Secretary Ash Carter said he will be "inviting responsible hackers to test our cybersecurity," adding that he believes the program will "strengthen our digital defences and ultimately enhance our national security."

Defence Department systems get probed and attacked millions of times a day, officials say.

The new program is being led by the Defence Digital Service, which was created by Carter last November.

According to the Pentagon, it is the first time the federal government has undertaken a program with outsiders attempting to breach the networks. Large companies have done similar things.

Officials said the pilot program will involve public networks or websites that do not have any sensitive information or personal employee data on them.

It is being called a "bounty" program. But it's unclear if the hackers will be paid a flat fee or based on their achievements -- or if they'll only be offered the glory and notoriety of breaching the world's greatest military's systems.


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