Hackers wanted: Pentagon tests US cyber defences in first programme of its kind

Hacker at a computer

Hackers wanted to break into the Pentagon.

No you're not misreading that: in the first ever programme of its kind the US government has launched the initiative to test the strength of its cyber-defences.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo already use so-called "bug bounties" to find and report security problems.

If hackers discover any major flaws they could get paid.

The Pentagon

The "Hack the Pentagon" scheme has begun and lasts until 12 May.

The application page says: "If you have information related to security vulnerabilities in the online services listed in scope below, we want to hear from you."

One senior official speaking to Reuters claimed that thousands of participants were expected to join the initiative.

The Pentagon already uses its own internal security experts to test its networks, but it is hoped that opening up to vetted outsiders will help spot and remove more weaknesses.

Close up ofhands ona keyboard

Security researchers have repeatedly called on the US government to take inspiration from major technology firms and introduce a bug bounty programme.

Facebook has reportedly paid out more than $3m (more than £2.1m) since its programme was launched in 2011.

If the Pentagon does introduce financial rewards, it would be the first government-funded initiative of its kind in the world.

Participants must be US citizens and will have to register and submit to a background check before they are turned loose on the computer system.

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