Building on the success of the “Hack the Pentagon” bug bounty pilot in which hackers from across the country were provided legal authorization to spot vulnerabilities in specific Department of Defense networks in return for cash payments, the Department of Defense (DoD) today unveiled two new initiatives designed to further enhance the DoD cybersecurity.
The first initiative is a new DoD policy regarding the identification of network vulnerabilities.
Beginning today, the DoD Vulnerability Disclosure Policy provides a legal avenue for security researchers to find and disclose vulnerabilities in any DoD public-facing systems.
This policy is the first of its kind for the Department. It provides clear guidance to security researchers for testing and disclosing vulnerabilities in DoD websites, and commits the Department to working openly and in good faith with researchers.
“The Vulnerability Disclosure Policy is a ‘see something, say something’ policy for the digital domain,” said Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
“We want to encourage computer security researchers to help us improve our defenses. This policy gives them a legal pathway to bolster the department’s cybersecurity and ultimately the nation’s security.”
The U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, which was consulted during the development of DoD’s Vulnerability Disclosure Policy, welcomed it as an important development.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell described it as “a laudable way to help computer security researchers use their skills in an effective, beneficial, and lawful manner to reduce security vulnerabilities.”
Today also marks the opening of registration for “Hack the Army,” the next bug bounty challenge.
The competition is modeled after the Defense Digital Service’s Hack the Pentagon pilot, but is focused on more operationally relevant websites — specifically those affecting the Army’s recruiting mission.
Partnering with the Defense Digital Service, Secretary of the Army Eric Fanning announced the challenge earlier this month in Austin, Texas.
“As Secretary of the Army, the security of these foundational systems is incredibly important to me, and security is everyone’s responsibility,” Secretary Fanning said.
“We need as many eyes and perspectives on our problem sets as possible and that’s especially true when it comes to securing the Army’s pipeline to future Soldiers.”
Approximately 500 hackers are expected to participate in this bug bounty challenge. They will be eligible to receive thousands of dollars in bounty rewards.
(Defense Secretary Ash Carter announcing the results of the ‘Hack the Pentagon’ cyber security initiative, the first cyber bug bounty program in the history of the federal government. Courtesy of the Department of Defense and YouTube)
The Vulnerability Disclosure Policy will provide a standing avenue of reporting for all DoD websites, whereas bug bounties like “Hack the Army” will provide incentives to researchers to focus on specific high-priority DoD networks and systems.
These two initiatives underscore Secretary Carter’s commitment to innovation and adopting commercial best practices. DoD has focused on efforts to modernize our digital security and find new ways to solve our internal challenges.
Both “Hack the Army” and the new Vulnerability Disclosure Policy are in line with these goals.