Technology 3 min read

U.S. Navy Asked you to "Hack Our Ship," Strengthens Cyber Defense

The Mariner 2392 /

The Mariner 2392 /

In its combat against cyber threats, the US Navy spares no expense. Now, it has introduced a new, proactive measure for improving cyber defense: hosting an open challenge and calling on expert hackers to crack a simulated computer system.

In an increasingly connected world, every facet of life is a target for hackers. Beyond identity theft, financial, political and military institutions are all vulnerable to cyber threats.

The U.S. Navy wants you to 'Hack Our Ship.'Click To Tweet

When it comes to national security, the stakes are so high that authorities are mobilizing increasingly important means. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense hired five contractors to upgrade the computer networks of the U.S. Navy. The eight-year multi-billion contract was awarded to Northrop Grumman Corp., BAE Systems, General Dynamics, Global Technical Systems, and Serco Inc.

U.S. Navy to Hackers: Hack Our Ship

From February 17 to February 19, the Center for Cyber Warfare at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) hosted an event challenging hackers to test their skills against a “boat in a box,” a simulated system built by contractor Booz Allen Hamilton of the NPS to resemble fleet systems.

The Hack Our Ship challenge is similar to “bug bounty” competitions often held by software developers to enlist hackers to find vulnerabilities in their systems.

The Navy aims to leverage the talents of cyber-experts to increase the level of protection of its systems.

A key objective beyond breach prevention is enhancing the ability to respond effectively to a successful attack and promptly regain control over compromised elements. These hackers, most of whom are young U.S. civilians, might also be interested then in joining the Navy to assist in the research and development of critical network systems. Hack Our Ship and then join it.

The Navy’s Digital Wars

The Navy is sensitive to cyber threats because it operates very complex systems to manage ships, aircraft, and drones. By inviting hackers to “Hack Our Ship,” the Navy has taken a future problem head on.

The vulnerabilities the Navy is acknowledging is also exacerbated by the proliferation of electronic and computer systems: navigation, communication, identification and recognition systems.

The upgrading of ship-based networks carried out under the CANES program (Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services) would allow rapid exchange of information for tactical, support and administrative purposes.

The Hack Our Ship event is the latest of its kind put on by the U.S. Navy. It has already organized a series of other hackathons challenging hackers to infiltrate drones and ships systems. Last June, the HackTheSky event invited security experts to try cracking a drone control software.

Does this seemingly intelligent, forward-thinking move have any holes that could be exploited?

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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