Now hiring: A 'James Bond' with hacking skills

The British government's intelligence service is recruiting a new class of spies with expert code-cracking abilities. Think you have what it takes?

Sorry James Bond, but if you want to join London's elite today you better get to work on those cyber skills.
(Image credit: Bettmann/CORBIS)

Britain is hiring spies, but not just any dashing martini-sipper will do. Potential applicants will need to prove they have prodigious hacking know-how to even be considered. To separate the pros from the wannabes, the government intelligence service, GCHQ, is requiring the next "James Bond" to apply through a cryptic online puzzle. Here's what you need to know about the U.K.'s effort to tighten security as it faces a "disturbing" rise in cyber crime:

A puzzle?

Yep. "Code-cracking skills are vital to secure the very best talent and to support the GCHQ mission in its fight against cyber threats," says a GCHQ spokesperson. GCHQ, which works with the U.K.'s internal and foreign intelligence services (MI5 and MI6), has a special website with "no obvious branding" displaying a "tricky visual code," says Mark Sweney at Britain's Guardian. On the surface, the code is a grid of 160 pairs of letters and numbers accompanied by a countdown clock, with a simple prompt asking for one thing: a keyword.

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And this is meant to attract top talent?

It is. "Traditionally, cyber specialists enter the organization as graduates" from schools like Cambridge or Oxford, says a GCHQ spokesperson. But this new initiative seeks out candidates "who may be self taught" to help GCHQ keep pace with "constantly evolving" computer technologies. The ideal candidate will have a "keen interest in code breaking and ethical hacking" — lawbreakers won't be considered.

Great! Where do I sign up?

Right here. (Of course, you'll need to be a British citizen to qualify.) The GCHQ is looking to hire "around 35 spies over the next few months," says Britain's Telegraph, and the brightest may be "fast-tracked" into a career in espionage. But you better move quickly: About 50 people have already cracked the code.

Sources: Guardian, The Star, Telegraph

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