Defense Dept. expands vulnerability disclosure program to all publicly accessible defense systems

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The US Department of Defense (DoD) has expanded its Vulnerability Disclosure Program (VDP) to include all publicly accessible DoD websites and systems.

The VDP is run by the Department of Defense Cyber Crime Center (DC3) to enable security researchers to report vulnerabilities on the DoD Information Network (DoDIN) to improve network defense.

The expansion announced today allows for research and reporting of vulnerabilities related to all DOD publicly accessible networks, frequency-based communication, internet of things (IoT), and industrial control systems, according to Brett Goldstein, the director of the Defense Digital Service. Originally, the program was limited to DoD public-facing websites and applications.

"This expansion is a testament to transforming the government's approach to security and leapfrogging the current state of technology within DOD," he said.

Before the program’s launch, researchers had no way of reporting bugs they found in publicly accessible DoD systems.

“Because of this, many vulnerabilities went unreported," said Goldstein. "The DOD Vulnerability Policy launched in 2016 because we demonstrated the efficacy of working with the hacker community and even hiring hackers to find and fix vulnerabilities in systems."

Since the launch of the Vulnerability Disclosure Program, security researchers have submitted over 29,000 vulnerability reports. Officials said that over 70% of them were determined to be valid.

Experts believe the expansion will lead to a massive increase in the number of bugs reported to them.

"The department has always maintained the perspective that DOD websites were only the beginning as they account for a fraction of our overall attack surface," said DOD Cyber Crime Center director Kristopher Johnson.

In April, the DoD Cyber Crime Center unveiled a 12-month Defense Industrial Base Vulnerability Disclosure Program (DIB-VDP) pilot to enable security researchers to report flaws in DoD contractor partner’s information systems, web properties, and other identified scoped assets. The 12-month program aspires to employ the lessons learned from existing reports made through the Pentagon’s Vulnerability Disclosure Program.

“The expansion of vulnerability research to participating DoD contractor networks replicates the DoD’s’ success by making participating DoD contractor networks available for vulnerability research,” said the DoD's Cyber Crime Center on its HackerOne webpage. “No technology is perfect, but DC3 believes that working with skilled security researchers across the globe is crucial to identifying their weaknesses.”

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.