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GCHQ Devises Code-Cracker Game To Recruit Spies

UK Cybersecurity top
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Intelligence agency GCHQ has gone to social media with a code-breaking challenge for would-be spies

GCHQ, one of the three UK Intelligence Agencies, has launched a new online code-cracking challenge aimed at recruiting the best and brightest that the new tech age has to offer.

Keeping up with the times, the agency chose to go viral this time, using a Twitter and Facebook campaign to advertise the game, rather that using the more traditional recruitment techniques, romanticised by films depicting clandestine meeting at Oxford and Cambridge.

Only crypto-geeks need apply

Open to UK citizens only,  canyoucrackit.co.uk challenges mathematically gifted visitors to decrypt a series of 160 alphanumeric pairs of characters, against a countdown which ends on 11 December at midnight. Succesful challengers are then directed to the agency’s recruitment portal. Some individuals have already cracked the code, according to GCHQ.

This strategy comes in response to the growing threat from cyber criminals and hackers intent on compromising UK infrastructure in the private and public sector, now acknowledged as one of the top  four most threats to national security.

Code cracking skills are vital to secure the very best talent and to support the GCHQ mission in its fight against cyber threats,” a GCHQ spokesman told the Telegraph. “Our target audience is not typically attracted to traditional advertising methods and may be unaware that we are recruiting for these kinds of roles.

“Their skills may be ideally suited to our work and yet they may not understand how they could apply them to a working environment, particularly one where they will have the opportunity to contribute so much.

“Traditionally, cyber specialists enter the organisation as graduates. However, with the threats to information and computer technology constantly evolving, it is essential that GCHQ allows candidates who may be self taught, but have a keen interest in code breaking and ethical hacking, to enter the recruitment route too.”

According to the GCHQ website, this is not the first code-breaking exercise issued, with challenges, with solutions going back to 2004. the website even has a junior version for would-be spy kids.

In 2009, GCHQ put a recruitment ad in the Call of Duty Xbox game. This is, however, the first time the organisation has used social media as a vehicle to attract cryptographers.