Microsoftt is encouraging hackers to find creative ways to break Windows, and will award money to whoever succeeds. According to Microsoft’s Security Response Center, the biggest payday on offer is $100,000 for anyone who discovers and reports “truly novel exploitation techniques against protections built into the latest version of our operating system (Windows 8.1 Preview)”, with smaller rewards available for the exposure of less critical flaws.

If you noticed the words “and reports” in that last sentence, you’ve found the whole reason Microsoft is doing this: to discover bugs and vulnerabilities early so that when the final version of the 8.1 Windows 8 update launches later this year, it will be as close to secure as the company can make it.

The genius of the plan is that Microsoft is essentially employing an army of hackers to do the legwork, and only rewarding the successful few. This puts Microsoft in an enviable win-win situation whereby if hackers fail to compromise Windows 8.1, they can brag about the impenetrability of their latest OS update, and if 8.1 is hacked, the company gets the benefit of the advanced warning and can fix the vulnerabilities before the final patch ships. And that’s not counting the positive press that will inevitably come from involving the international security community in their efforts to improve Windows.

If you’ve got a penchant for hacking and have been convinced for years that Microsoft’s idea of security is as laughable as a chocolate submarine, now’s your chance to prove yourself right, and maybe even earn some cash in the process. So dust off your black hat and prepare to don it on June 26, when the program launches alongside the 8.1 preview update.

Deon got his first taste of PC gaming at the tender age of 11 when his father bought an 8088 XT, ostensibly to "help him with his homework". Instead, it introduced him to Leisure Suit Larry, King Graham, Sonny Bonds and many more, and Deon has been a PC gamer and hardware enthusiast ever since. He landed his first professional writing gig in 2006 at a prestigious local PC magazine, a very happy happenstance as he got to write for a living about things he loves - tech, PCs, gaming, and everything in between. He's been writing about it all ever since, and loves every minute of it.