By John Leyden
24th September 2009
The UK government's reported decision to employ ex-hackers to work at a
newly-established Cyber Security Operations Centre have met with
derision from both a high-profile former hacker and an acknowledged
Lord West, the Home Office security minister, first suggested that
former hackers (or "naughty boys", as he described them) might play a
key role in Britain's revamped cyberdefence strategy back in June. At
the time it seemed like just another in the admiral-turned-minister's
growing list of eccentric observations on various aspects of security
For example, he later suggested that a net-flinging entanglement
"bazooka" designed to stop speedboats might be just the job for use on
"topless lovelies". This was doubtless surprising to its developers, who
saw it as a weapon against USS Cole-style suicide attacks.
However, last weekend the Sunday Express reported that the MI5 had hired
"50 computer-savvy hackers . some of them still teenagers . to work in a
newly formed top secret Cyber Operations Command." The majority of the
teens are Asians, the paper adds. All are subject to the same level of
background security checks used to clear the employment of other
intelligence staff. The Sunday Express helpfully adds that this means
they have signed the Official Secrets Act and are forbidden from
"tell[ing] their parents or girlfriends what they do in the windowless
basement area in the Security Service building beside the Thames".
Lord West reportedly described the new hires as "youngsters who use
their talents to stop other hackers from closing down this country".
Mathew Bevan (AKA Kuji), a British hacker arrested and unsuccessfully
prosecuted for hacking into secure US government networks back in 1994,
who later became a successful security consultant, helped us pick apart
the many implausibilities of the story.
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