Congressmen Introduce Bill That Pays Hackers To Infiltrate Gov’t Systems

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Eric Lieberman Managing Editor
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Two members of Congress introduced a bill Tuesday that would establish a program in which hackers are paid to infiltrate government computer systems and identify any vulnerabilities.

Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu of California and Republican Rep. Scott Taylor of Virginia, who proposed the “Hack the Department of Homeland Security Act,” want to harness some of the tech talent available in the country and use it to bolster the U.S.’s cybersecurity capabilities.

“There is perhaps no better way to find weaknesses in our cyber armor than to enlist the help of America’s top security researchers,” Lieu said in an official statement. “As a Computer Science major, I recognize that bug bounty programs have proven critical to enhancing cybersecurity at the Pentagon and in the private sector, and it is past time we bring this tool to bear at the agency tasked with protecting our homeland security.” (RELATED: One Of The Few Congressmen Knowledgeable On Cybersecurity Is In A Heated House Race)

The House version of the bill is a companion to the legislation a bipartisan team of senators introduced in May.

“Federal agencies like DHS are under assault every day from cyberattacks,” Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, one of the co-sponsors of the bill along with Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, said in a statement. “These attacks threaten the safety, security and privacy of millions of Americans and in order to protect DHS and the American people from these threats, the Department will need help.”

Hassan says that such cash incentive measures will help recruit “patriotic and ethical hackers” who can strengthen the government’s overall cybersecurity. (RELATED: The 22-Year-Old Who Helped Stop A Cyber Meltdown Will Donate His Reward To Charity)

While the two programs would be the first of its kind in the legislative sense if they ultimately pass, the federal government has implemented similar measures before.

The Army, for example, announced in November its intent to pay a Silicon Valley company to hack its system and expose weak points in the branch’s technological infrastructure.

Months before that, the Pentagon paid cyber-savvy people to penetrate its computer systems and receive cash bounties in the process.

While not a bug bounty program, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona essentially called for a specialized branch of the military in March that focuses almost exclusively on cybersecurity and emergency preparedness. Gallego says this would help fill what he sees as a shortage of technical expertise in the federal government.

And the NSA announced in April it was sponsoring a summer camp for teen girls in an attempt to spark cybersecurity intrigue among the younger generation and diversify the general tech industry.

It is not surprising that Lieu proposed the “Hack the Department of Homeland Security Act” since he is one of the few congressmen with any cybersecurity background. (RELATED: Democratic Rep. Calls For Official Probe Into Trump’s Unsecured Phone)

Along with Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, Lieu wrote a letter to their colleagues last year asking that they update their passwords and employ two-factor authentication, which uses other personal credentials to add extra layers to log-in security.

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