U.S. Department of Defense to Hackers: Bring It On!

Huge in Swordfish

In the arguably "classic" computer hack thriller Swordfish, Hugh Jackman plays a legendary blackhat hacker who is recruited by a shady government agent played by John Travolta. In order to be certain that Jackman's Stanley Jobson has the digital wherewithal he's looking for, Travolta's Gabriel Shear orders him to hack the U.S. Department of Defense in 60 seconds or less.

 

Now the real-life U.S. Department of Defense is hoping to test the mettle of its websites — by inviting hackers to, more or less pull off a Stanley Jobson. Jobson (spoiler alert!) gets it done in the movie because he can, like, see the ones and zeroes in his head, men. It's instinct! The Department of Defense is hoping to get slightly more concrete data about potential holes in its cyberdefenses.

 

Participating hackers won't have to complete their work in less than a minute. And if you find a weakness, then the Department of Defense will cut you a check. Provided, of course, that you are a vetted, legitimate participant. Only hackers who submit to a Department of Defense background check will be allowed to join in the fun.

 

For those of you interested in cybersecurity, this beats just about any certification out there. Imagine if you could put "Successfully hacked the Pentagon" on your curriculum vitae. (No, really, imagine it. Defense Department officials are actually hoping that will be a big draw.)

 

The program has been officially dubbed "Hack the Pentagon," which seems at least a little bit questionable. Is no one else sensing the potential here for prospective hackers to perhaps go looking for information about the legitimate U.S. Government program, and then end up inadvertently contacting less reputable recruitment efforts managed by, say, China or Russia?

 

The Defense Department manages hundreds of websites, but participants won't have the freedom to just pick one at random and go to work. When Hack the Pentagon launches in April, participants will attack a pre-chosen site that is not considered critical to Defense Department operations.

 

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced the program earlier this week while visiting Silicon Valley and the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco.

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