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article imageBritish Intelligence Agency recruits hackers with top secret game Special

By Christina Farr     Dec 3, 2011 in Internet
The British Intelligence Agency is recruiting talent in the hacker community via a code-cracking online game released on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
The contestants that successfully solve the code are invited to apply for a position at the GCHQ, a leading intelligence agency. PSFK, which originally reported the initiative, said this was not the first time the GCHQ has appealed to the gaming community: “In 2009, it placed content in video games like Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty…[but] this time the intelligence agency is being more selective with its audience.”
The GCHQ, one of the three UK intelligence agencies, defines its mission as keeping “society safe and successful in the digital age.” The agency works in partnership with security service, MI5, and secret intelligence service, MI6, to provide intelligence and information, and inform UK policy.
Experts are not convinced that the most elusive hackers are looking for a steady day job. “Hackers love a challenge and they will surely take the bait – but that doesn’t mean that the agency will be successful in recruiting them,” said Agit Mayya, vice president of engineering at iSwifter, a Silicon Valley-based social gaming company.
Louisa Leontiades, chief executive officer of Investment Impact, the world’s first virtual consultancy formed through online game mechanics, warns that retention will be a problem.
“A hacker is also inherently against the system…The best hackers will miss the thrill of the chase,” she said.
The GCHQ would be advised to “set the impossible challenge,” Leontiades added, as the very best would not participate in a challenge that is accessible to the public. “An element of secrecy is desirable, even coveted."
They are far from private, but social networking sites allow companies to engage with specific user-groups. Matt MacNaughton, CEO of Promojam, a leading social media marketing tool, said that recruitment efforts like these are "just plain smart." He anticipates that other government agencies and technology companies will follow suit.
"Intelligence agencies like Britain's GCHQ that spend a lot of timing snooping around social networks have realized that these platforms can be hyper-effective at targeting and reaching niche groups of users," he said.
Michael Fischer, a computer science PhD student at Stanford University, explained that the true value of the game is its ability to gain exposure. Government agencies need hackers on their side to fight terrorism and cyber-threats. “This is a smart move to find talented people,” he said. “With the puzzle, it gives the company an opportunity to show the type of problems they are trying to solve.”
More about british intelligence agency, iswifter, stanford university, michael fischer, christina farr
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