Vulnerabilities / Threats

4/2/2018
04:23 PM
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'Hack the Defense Travel System': DoD Extends its Bug Bounty Program

The fifth US Department of Defense bug bounty program, launched with HackerOne, will target a DoD enterprise system used by millions.

The US Department of Defense and HackerOne have announced a new DoD bug bounty program, "Hack the DTS," which will let vetted white-hat hackers take aim at the Defense Travel System, an enterprise platform used by millions of employees to book work-related travel.

This is the fifth bug bounty challenge the two have created since 2016, when the inaugural Hack the Pentagon program let participants hunt for vulnerabilities in DoD websites, applications, and networks. Hack the DTS opened registration on April 1, 2018 and will conclude on April 29.

"The scale of users, volume of travel booked, and sensitive information it is responsible for maintaining makes DTS both a compelling asset for researcher and a priority for DoD to harden its security," says Reina Staley, chief of staff and co-founder at Defense Digital Service, who says this program will have the same execution as earlier ones but "inevitably yield unique findings."

Eligible participants must be US taxpayers and either citizens of, or eligible to work in, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand. Proof of citizenship is required to register.

Active US military members and contractors can join the challenge if they're eligible but can't receive financial rewards. Anyone who submits a vulnerability report must undergo a security and criminal background check before they are rewarded for their findings, HackerOne reports.

Hack the DTS will invite up to 600 participants. Seventy percent will be chosen based on the HackerOne Reputation System, which builds track records for researchers based on the strength and relevance of earlier reports. Thirty percent will be chosen from a random lottery.

While the DoD's initial bug bounty initiative first took security experts by surprise, the DoD's bug bounty programs launched with HackerOne have proven a valuable resource for finding and addressing vulnerabilities. More than 3,000 flaws have been resolved since the 2016 launch of Hack the Pentagon, with ensuing programs leading to more flaws discovered and larger bounties.

"The quick, positive reception of the program has been a major win," says Staley. "Inviting hackers to uncover vulnerabilities in DoD assets sounds counterintuitive to traditional government security practice, but the value of crowdsourcing external talent has been clear in every challenge we've run to date."

The first Hack the Air Force program resulted in 207 valid reports and $130,000 rewarded to hackers for their findings. The second yielded 106 valid vulnerabilities and $103,883 paid to participants, including a single award of $12,500 for a code execution vulnerability on an Air Force Portal host system. Hack the Army in December 2018 surfaced 118 valid flaws.

While Hack the Pentagon was primarily created as a means for people to help with national security without pursuing a government career, Staley notes the program has helped find talent. A contributor to the program will join the DDS for a summer internship prior to starting college in the fall.

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Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio

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