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Official Jobs for Hackers?

A rare and unusual job opportunity arose for those from the geeky/nerdy fringe of society who have now come centre stage on the career front. Their services are much in demand.

However, it was all exposed within hours by a former member of staff.

A unique and inventive code breaking game online through Facebook and Twitter was deployed by GCHQ, the government’s intelligence agency, to find new recruits not otherwise attracted to being a ‘civil servant’ or not already picked up the big online giants.

The eavesdropping hub of GCHQ were looking to take on about 35 new spies from among people who were not from the traditional elite universities normally searched. Today’s generations of spooks were set a task unscramble 160 pairs of seemingly meaningless numbers and letters and find a secret word.

It was hoped the game would find people equipped with the right mathematical and analytical skills to help the UK improve its defence against cybercriminals and cyberterrorists.

They said that traditional forms of advertising do not attract the new, more left-field thinkers they need. Graduates as expected, but also the self taught, the obsessives interested in ‘ethical hacking’ and cutting-edge computer technology will be given a free hand to create new defences and to break into unwanted, hostile cyber attacks.

The ethical hacking website explained that with security and defence now ‘an important field of interest’, with no organisation safe, they needed ‘enough penetration testers’ to come up with solutions to fight attacks. These workers ‘attack like a black hat hacker’ to find every tiny weakness/vulnerability in any system.

So, in effect, the work of official hackers and crackers is both pro-active (to break through hostile organisations’ defences) and reactive (to defend what is at home in Britain).

Unfortunately for GCHQ, on 2 December, the Daily Telegraph exposed the answer, solved by about 50 people, as accessible through three separate and complex stages. Once through, the successful code-breaker was invited to use their ‘skills and ingenuity’ to combat terrorism.

However, the final link was to a page of jobs at GCHQ offering £25,000 a year for cyber security specialist. No wonder they struggle to retain high-calibre frontline staff, when the most junior post at Google, Amazon or Microsoft would laugh at that salary.

But it was a nice try, GCHQ. A good, original idea.


Photo: Nilfanion