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To beat a hacker, one has to think like a hacker, or maybe even be a hacker.

That is exactly what Pentagon officials are thinking as they are looking for some good hackers to see if they can breach the Defense Department’s public Internet pages in a pilot program aimed at finding and fixing cyber security vulnerabilities.

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This is the first time the federal government has undertaken a program with outsiders attempting to breach the networks, Pentagon officials said.

Defense officials laid out the broad outlines of the plan, but had few details on how it will work, what Pentagon systems would be tested and how they would compensate hackers.

Cyber Security

Called “Hack the Pentagon,” the program will begin next month. Department officials and lawyers still must work through a number of legal issues involving the authorization of “white-hat hackers” to breach active Pentagon websites.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he will be “inviting responsible hackers to test our cyber security,” adding he believes the program will “strengthen our digital defenses and ultimately enhance our national security.”

Speaking at a tech industry event in San Francisco, Carter said the idea came from Silicon Valley, where tech companies offer financial rewards or bounties for finding vulnerabilities.

“We’re trying to adopt what is a best practice,” he said. “It’s a way of crowdsourcing the expertise and having access to good people. … You’d much rather find the vulnerabilities in your networks in that way” — rather than wait for malicious hackers to steal information or compromise a system.

Defense Department systems get probed and attacked millions of times a day, officials said.

Defense Digital Service, created by Carter last November, will lead the program.

Officials said the pilot program will involve public networks or websites that do not have any sensitive information or personal employee data on them.

They are calling it a “bounty” program and Carter said the hackers would get some kind of reward, beyond the distinction of having beached the world’s greatest military’s systems. But he didn’t provide details.

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