Ready, Set, Hack: Pentagon Invites Hackers to Break Into its Computer Systems The public bug bounty program is the government's first.

By Catherine Clifford

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The U.S. Department of Defense is asking the hacker community for help.

The Pentagon has launched a bug bounty program, which is a public challenge inviting hackers to find vulnerabilities in its computer systems in exchange for cash rewards. The Department of Defense has set aside $150,000 to pay hackers for any holes in the military's cyber security system, according to a statement announcing the bug bounty program.

Related: Meet the Middlemen Who Connect Hackers for Hire With Corporate America

"This initiative will put the department's cybersecurity to the test in an innovative but responsible way," says Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter in the statement announcing the challenge. "I encourage hackers who want to bolster our digital defenses to join the competition and take their best shot."

This is the first public bug bounty program the U.S. government has ever run.

Meanwhile, bug bounty programs are such a common practice at many of the largest tech companies in the country that there are a handful of companies that act as liaisons between the hacker community and these enterprises. San Francisco-based startup HackerOne is one such company and is operating the Pentagon's bug bounty program.

Related: Google to Hand Out 'Infinity Million' Dollars to Hackers Who Break Into Google Chrome

To believe that any computer system is without vulnerabilities is foolishly naive. Bug bounty programs look to capitalize on hackers, who are often some of the most sophisticated computer minds out there.

The Pentagon's bug bounty program runs from Monday, April 18, through Thursday, May 12. Hackers interested in participating can apply here.

Catherine Clifford

Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC

Catherine Clifford is senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC. She was formerly a senior writer at Entrepreneur.com, the small business reporter at CNNMoney and an assistant in the New York bureau for CNN. Clifford attended Columbia University where she earned a bachelor's degree. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow her on Twitter at @CatClifford.

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