Following the success of the “Hack the Pentagon” program, the U.S. Department of Defense has decided to continue to test its websites and networks for cybersecurity vulnerabilities using crowdsourced experts.
The DoD announced on Thursday that it awarded a combined $7 million to HackerOne and Synack for helping the organization’s components launch their own bug bounty initiatives.
HackerOne will help the DoD run challenges similar to Hack the Pentagon, while Synack will provide assistance for a private program open only to highly vetted researchers. The private program will focus on the Pentagon’s sensitive IT assets.
The DoD expects the contracts to cover up to 14 challenges in which hundreds of researchers will be rewarded.
“As adversaries become more sophisticated and the threat environment continues to evolve, maintaining the highest levels of security has never been more important,” said Mark Wright, spokesman at the Office of the Secretary of Defense. “By partnering with these leading crowdsourced security companies, we can take a much more innovative, diverse, scalable and effective approach to better protect and defend our digital assets.”
The Hack the Pentagon challenge, lead by the Defense Digital Service and hosted by HackerOne, took place between April 18 and May 12. More than 1,400 hackers registered for the pilot program and over 250 of them submitted at least one vulnerability report. Of all the submissions, 138 were valid and eligible for a bounty.
The DoD said the entire cost of the Hack the Pentagon pilot was $150,000, half of which went to participants. The organization believes that hiring an outside contractor to conduct similar vulnerability testing would have cost at least $1 million.
“These contract vehicles will create an easier and faster path for components and services to set up their own challenges,” said Lisa Wiswell, bureaucracy hacker with the Defense Digital Service team. “Considering the tremendous cost-benefit of crowdsourcing talent, it’s proven that you’ll get more bang for your buck than with some of the other traditional security tools we’ve used in the past.”