MI5 on the hunt for hackers to hire

UK spook outfit MI5 is on the hunt for hackers, but it's not looking to arrest them: it wants to give them a cushy government job, instead.

The secretive security service has posted a pair of job adverts on its official site in the hopes of attracting technical types to do their bit for Queen and country. While one job role - that of ICT Specialist - is fairly innocuous, the second has a somewhat more exciting title: IT Security Exploitation Officer.

"IT Security Exploitation Officers leverage their knowledge of computer security systems and networks to provide expert support to our investigators," MI5's Information Technology department explains. "They have a good understanding of present technical threats, are able to demonstrate real insight into current mainstream software platforms and are able to identify weaknesses and countermeasures."

That's right: MI5 is looking for people with the technical skills to 'identify weaknesses' in computing platforms. While it would be remiss of us to suggest that this forms part of a UK cyberwarfare strategy, it's certainly the sort of thing that would come in handy come the long-threatened and highly-unlikely 'digital Pearl Harbour' that US congresspeople get so worked up about.

To help narrow the search, the security service has uploaded a quick quiz for would-be government-sponsored crackers and hackers to test their knowledge. Although not a formal part of the application process, the quiz - which covers topics including software, networking, systems administration, and encryption - is a good way to get a flavour of the sort of work MI5 does in the digital realm.

The IT Security Exploitation Officer post is joined by the more prosaic ICT Specialist, which is described as staff that "enable us to use technology as a tool to gather and analyse digital intelligence. The technical insights they provide are vital in enabling our Intelligence Officers to piece together complex intelligence pictures."

While the job title isn't quite as exciting, the required skills should make people sit up and take notice: an ICT Specialist is expected to have skills in the fields of computer forensics, network security, network penetration testing, and software development on both Linux and Windows - but not, it seems, BSD or Mac - platforms.

Both roles are up for grabs now, with salary sat somewhere between £27,000 and £36,000 depending on experience. More details can be found on the official MI5 website.