GCHQ turns to Facebook and Twitter to recruit spies

UK intelligence agency GCHQ has launched a code-breaking challenge on Facebook and Twitter in an effort to recruit new staff.

Potential recruits will be directed via social networking sites to an online cryptography contest hosted on an anonymous website - but won't be told who or what the competition is in aid of.

Once there, successful applicants who crack the competition's codes will be taken to GCHQ's website to discover details of the roles available.

A spokesman for GCHQ told IT news site The Register: "Traditionally, cyber specialists enter the organisation as graduates. However, with the nature of computer threats ever-changing, it is essential we allow candidates who may be self-taught, but have a keen interest in code-breaking and ethical hacking, to enter the recruitment route too.

GCHQ hopes the strategy will enable it to attract applicants who wouldn't previously have known about or considered a job with the UK's top-secret listening post.

"Our target audience is not typically attracted to traditional advertising methods and may be unaware that GCHQ is recruiting for these kind of roles," explained the spokesman.

Security surrounding the appointments will be as tight as ever, though, the agency says, with candidates having to go through a vetting process that will exclude those who have previously engaged in illegal hacking.