GCHQ recruiting hackers to deter terrorists, protect national infrastructure

News by Doug Drinkwater

GCHQ is recruiting hackers who can "carry out computer network operations to keep the UK safe".

In a job posting published on the agency's website earlier today, GCHQ said that it was, for the first time, openly recruiting for Computer Network Operation Specialists (CNOS) who would specifically  be charged with defending critical government systems, including critical national infrastructure, and infiltrating terrorist and criminal communications.

“At GCHQ, CNOS work in both cyber-security and cyber-intelligence roles,” reads the post. “In cyber-security, operations specialists may find themselves working in a team detecting and preventing attempts to attack the critical national infrastructure, or seeking to defend government systems against criminals seeking to steal information, identities or money. Cyber intelligence specialists might need to develop software to access the computers of a terrorist group, or carry out operations to retrieve vital online clues about the location and identity of members of an organised crime ring.”

A GCHQ spokesperson added: “Our work is unique and it makes a difference to the UK. Our current campaign to recruit Computer Network Operations Specialists means new entrants get to fully play their part.

“We are looking for people with a diverse range of backgrounds and experience, so training is tailored to meet the needs of the individual and the role. The need to keep up with changing technology means that those we recruit continue learning and developing throughout a career in computer network operations.”

For the CNOS campaign, GCHQ is recruiting graduates and non-graduates who are aged 18 or over and who have “complex coding and problem-solving skills”. In a job ad, GCHQ specifies that they are looking for  a Computer Network Operations Specialist, a student or graduate will have to have, or who will soon have, “a Bachelor's or Master's degree incorporating ethical hacking, digital forensics or information security”.

The starting salary is £27,913 and the start date will depend on successful candidates achieving DV security clearance. Places are available at GCHQ offices in Cheltenham and Scarborough.

“The government has been deep in the hacking business for over a decade,” Eric King, deputy director at Privacy International, told Forbes. “They have granted themselves secret powers to break into our phones and computers that are so integral to our lives. What's worse is that without any legitimate legal authority or justification, they think they have the authority to target anyone they wish, no matter if they are suspected of a crime.”

GCHQ, which has recently been hiring for infosec professionals for its new office in Manchester, has been criticised for its wide-spread surveillance, as detailed through Edward Snowden's leaks, but it appears the agency is adamant it has done nothing wrong.

Speaking at an F-Secure event recently, The Guardian investigative reporter Ewen MacAskill – who met Snowden in Hong Kong - said that GCHQ were “ordinary civil servants that don't think there was anything wrong with what they're doing, the intrusions, and the invasion of privacy.”

“They've no intention of giving up the tools, he said at the time.

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