A website, canyoufindit.co.uk, just went live. It contains 28 sets of five letters and one set of three letters. There are five answers. If you get them right, you may be on your way to joining GCHQ, Britain’s signals-intelligence agency, in either the “cyber and technical operations,” “maths and cryptography” or “advanced technology research” departments. The website was registered in March to TMP Worldwide, a recruitment company that has in the past helped GCHQ search for women engineers.
This is not the first time GCHQ has used puzzles to find skilled programmers. In 2011, the agency set up a similar, now-defunct website, titled “Can you crack it,” which the Telegraph newspaper later reported led to a “path to a job” for all who solved its puzzles. Cracking it involved several steps that required programming skills to complete, at the end of which lay a form to apply to GCHQ.
Such methods may be essential for GCHQ, which has a tough time attracting and retaining staff. Ian Lobban, director of GCHQ since 2008, told the intelligence and security committee of Parliament early in 2011 that his agency can offer recruits a fantastic mission but can’t compete with the salaries offered by the private sector. The agency has since put in place more “flexible packages for internet specialists.”