December 2, 2011
Britain Issues ‘Cyber Challenge’ To Find New Talent
In a bid to recruit young, cyber-savvy talent, Britain´s intelligence agency GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters) has recently introduced a code-cracking competition via a somewhat unconventional medium.
In contrast to the traditional ℠top-down´ recruitment strategy–which included combing the campuses of elite universities like Oxford and Cambridge for brainy, young James Bonds– the security organization´s administration is attempting to attract talent using a variety of social media networks like Facebook and Twitter.
On November 3 the GCHQ secretly issued a challenge to underground techies in the form of a complex visual code that participants are asked to crack. If successful, they are given a code and redirected to the organization´s recruitment website for a chance at an interview.
This paradigm shift in recruitment strategies is yet another effect of the profound changes brought on by the internet revolution–the decentralization of knowledge and expertise.
The campaign is an attempt to reach those thousands of anonymous computer whiz kids who have honed their skills in on home computers and in chat rooms rather than in the halls of prestigious universities.
“Traditionally, cyber specialists enter the organization as graduates,” explained a spokesman for the agency. “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.”
“The target audience for this particular campaign is one that may not typically be attracted to traditional advertising methods and may be unaware that GCHQ is 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 have the opportunity to contribute so much.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron first indicated the new recruitment strategy in October when his government responded to an annual report issued by the Intelligence and Security Committee.
The report highlighted the organization´s concern that GCHQ had become unable to “retain a suitable cadre of internet specialists” capable of quickly tackling the rapidly increasing number of threats to the government´s cyber security.
Cameron´s cabinet endorsed the "Cyber Security Challenge” and subsequently announced the creation of a specialized cyber department within the GCHQ. The newly-created Joint Cyber Unit will focus its energies on neutralizing the dizzying array of various new cyber threats that spring up daily.
England´s Foreign Secretary William Hague recently commented that the “exponential rise” in cyber attacks in recent years has made such a department a necessity to national security. On average, he says, the British government is exposed to some 600 “malicious” attacks every day.
“We are witnessing the development of a global criminal market place,” explained head of the GCHQ Iain Lobban, pointing to the emergence of “a parallel black economy where cyber dollars are traded in exchanged for UK citizens´ credit card details.”
While a majority of the attempted attacks are amateurish and easily neutralized, there was at least one significant threat foiled in recent months that Lobban says threatened the “UK´s continued economic wellbeing.”
Officials believe that initiatives like the Cyber Security Challenge will allow them find skilled digital government guardians who might otherwise have slipped through the cracks of the current recruiting system. The contest is scheduled to end at midnight on December 12.
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