Security service looks to recruit IT staff to aid fight against terror

The growing market for IT security specialists was illustrated this month by a job advertisement placed in Computer Weekly by...

The growing market for IT security specialists was illustrated this month by a job advertisement placed in Computer Weekly by MI5, which was seeking staff to manage and protect its communications. But how can interested candidates move into such a traditionally secretive sector?

The MI5 advertisement sought a communications engineer, programme manager and several other "career positions" to "reinforce capabilities" in the agency's work to "protect the UK from the threat of terrorism". The advertisement promised a top salary of £60,000 to work in central London.

Those interested in the vacancies were asked to submit CVs to Tribal GWT Consulting. "In this case we are really just acting as a postman, we are not even reading the CVs - just sending them on to MI5 so they can assess them themselves," said Bob Gunning, regional manager at Tribal.

Following media publicity about MI5's recruitment campaign to boost its powers in the war against terrorism, estimates put the number of applications received for these IT jobs at about 2,000. However, Tribal declined to comment.

Bartlett Scott Edgar is well-known as a recruitment agency for MI5. It has filled many vacancies in the past and is hopeful that an ongoing recruitment review by MI5 will lead to more vacancies for those with IT skills.

"We have been told to expect a large number of vacancies for school leavers, those that have recently left college and older graduates," said Kate Wilson, senior account manager at Bartlett Scott Edgar. "Salaries will be anything between £13,000 to £15,000 and the £60,000 level,"

Wilson said MI5 is looking to recruit staff in a wide range of areas, including IT development, integration, systems support and production. It is also looking for IT staff skilled in communication installation, systems engineering and software engineering.

Wilson said MI5 welcomed speculative applications, providing candidates followed the guidelines on the MI5 website.

NGS Software is another company with links to the security services, having worked on projects in partnership with the Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG), the government department responsible for national computer security.

"Security is a tricky business because you have to be whiter than white - the whole thing is based on trust and personal recommendation," said Chris Anley, joint founder of NGS.

NGS does IT security vulnerability testing for the CESG and also conducts penetration testing, application audits and other work for companies.

"Someone working in network administration, for instance, may be a natural candidate for us, but anyone interested also has to be keen - it is not like what is portrayed in Hollywood," said Anley.

"Much of the work involves systematically knocking on every door and trying every window to find faults with systems, so this type of work is not for people with a lack of determination or a very low boredom threshold."

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