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02 December 2011, 15:26

British intelligence uses code puzzles for recruitment

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Zoom There are still nine days to crack the code
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British agency in charge of signals intelligence, has posted an online challenge to attract the interest of potential recruits. A password is allegedly hidden in 20 blocks of 8-byte hex code on the "Can you crack it?" web site, and those who solve it can enter the password into the web site to begin the GCHQ application process. The site does not provide any hints, however.

This strategy is a fairly unconventional way for an intelligence agency to attract attention and potential applicants; links to the page are making their way around social networks. GCHQ recently expressed concerns about finding new staff, especially internet specialists.

Zoom Those who complete the challenge can apply to be a GCHQ Cyber Security Specialist
The mystery has reportedly already been solved by several people. The hexadecimal code is, in fact, used to write a decryption program in x86 assembler, which can be used to decrypt a message hidden within the image on the web site. The resulting URL in the string leads to a second puzzle in which users must implement a virtual machine in JavaScript, which will eventually yield the password. Ultimately, those who succeed in solving all of the puzzles will be directed to a site where they can apply for a position as a Cyber Security Specialist.

However, it's questionable if it is worth putting any effort into the puzzle – according to the Telegraph, many employees at GCHQ earn only £25,000; in the private sector, someone with these skills could easily earn up to £80,000.


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