NCA wants security pros to become cybercrime fighters

News by Tim Ring

The UK's National Crime Agency is on the hunt for cyber security professionals to "join the fight against some of the world's most significant cyber criminals" on salaries ranging from £24,000 to £52,000.

The NCA is seeking technical specialists with skills in software development, network engineering, data analysis, digital forensics and internet-based investigative work to join its National Cyber Crime Unit (NCCU).

The agency says: “Successful applicants will be part of wide-ranging efforts to pursue criminals, disrupt and dismantle their groups, and make the UK ever more resilient against cyber-crime – from the sexual exploitation of children, to modern slavery, to corruption and money laundering.”

NCCU director Jamie Saunders said: “We want to hear from people with the skills, adaptability and can-do mindset required to help keep the UK's public and businesses safer. This is fast-paced, challenging work impacting millions of people.”

An NCA spokesperson confirmed to “We're expanding across every part of our work. The types of crimes we are looking into are changing - so we need a workforce that reflects the capabilities of the people that we're dealing with.”

But the recruitment drive has sparked a debate about whether the ‘civil service' salaries on offer will be enough to lure the best security professionals.

Adrian Culley, a former Scotland Yard cyber crime detective and now a security consultant, told SC: “They're unlikely to attract the more experienced and highly skilled people because the skills are in demand globally, and unfortunately it's the age-old problem that the civil service pay structure, coupled with the police hierarchy, does not lend itself to recruiting the best from industry.”

The NCA's spokesperson admitted that: “We're a civil service organisation at the end of the day, so it's not something which is totally within our control.”

But he told us: “The people who come and work for this organisation don't necessarily just do it for the money. It is fair to say all of the roles that we advertise are well over-subscribed.

“We did a similar sort of thing six months to a year ago where we had people registering interest on a website, and the site was brought to its knees because of the number of people getting in touch.”

The recruitment drive is also complicated by the fact that, alongside its full-time paid staff, the NCA hires ‘Special Constables' from industry who act as part-time unpaid volunteers. It currently has more than 20 ‘Specials' on call, in addition to the work it does in partnership with security firms.

Culley commented: “I've always found this blend of professional police officers and voluntary slightly bizarre. If you went in for heart or brain surgery and the surgeon said ‘I'm a special surgeon', you'd be up off that table and out the door.

“I don't know if there's any answer to it. There's much very good work done by people who are Special Constables across the UK and across the Eurozone.”

The NCA spokesperson said: “Our Specials work elsewhere and we call on them when we need their specific capability, as opposed to somebody who is a staff officer and a full-time paid employee.”

The NCA is seeking a range of expertise and experience for its new full-time roles. Posts are nationwide, including London, Warrington and East Midlands, and go from entry to management level. Salaries range from £24,717 to over £52,000 depending on qualifications and experience.

However, Troels Oerting, head of Europol's European Cybercrime Centre (EC3), has emphasised the need for agencies like the NCA to hire the best from industry.

In an interview for the November/December 2014 issue of SC Magazine, he said: “The problem is, we can't just move a guy from people-trafficking and say ‘OK, now you are a computer expert'. We need to recruit experts. We'd rather grow slowly but with the right people.”

In its recruitment literature, the NCA quotes ‘Chris', an existing technical officer with the NCCU, who says: “I have a really diverse workload, which includes finding solutions to problems that might arise during the course of complex investigations, and using programming languages to create new tools for speeding up data analysis.

“And while I spend quite a lot of time using technology to turn raw data samples into usable operational intelligence, I also need to be able to turn the technical work I do into statements which are clear to judges and juries who may not be familiar with cyber-crime.

“The satisfaction of seeing those efforts result in convictions or the dismantling of a cyber-crime group is something I'd recommend to anyone.”

‘Zulfi', from the NCCU's Prevent team, said: “My role involves researching new tools and techniques to deploy against criminals and help stop people becoming involved in cyber crime. I get the opportunity to work closely with academics, international law enforcement counterparts and behavioural scientists to increase our understanding of the threat, develop new approaches, and help make the internet a safer and more secure environment for everyone.”

For more information on the jobs, visit Applications are open until midday on Monday 10 November.

In related news, a survey by the Government's ‘Get Safe Online' internet safety initiative has revealed the financial and emotional cost of cyber-crime. Half of those respondents who were a victim of such crime said they felt either ‘very' or ‘extremely violated' by their ordeal.

Separate figures show that over £670 million was lost nationwide to the top 10 internet-enabled frauds between 1 September 2013 and 31 August 2014. But Get Safe Online ( says many internet-enabled fraud cases still go unreported, so the true economic cost to the UK is likely to be significantly higher.

Its chief executive Tony Neate commented: “Our research shows just how serious a toll cyber-crime can take – both on the wallet and on well-being.”

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