Not Spooks, but still exciting

THE BBC’s Spooks is not a realistic depiction of working life at MI5, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that working for the UK’s national security intelligence agency would be cool. If you’ve ever longed to know state secrets or work on The Grid, now could be your chance. The Security Service is recruiting – and recruiting City workers to boot.

It is after folks for its Digital Intelligence unit. That’s using technology to fend off terrorist attacks, espionage and other threats to national security. It needs people with a strong background in computer science, engineering or information security (more detailed criteria are listed in the panel on the right). Pressured bankers might be tempted by the nine-to-five working day on offer or the collaborative teamwork approach: according to its human resources department, it’s “not cut throat.” You won’t be bored though, the work is fast-paced and partners include the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) and the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

I’m assured that many things people believe about MI5’s recruitment processes are myths. It is not true that it doesn’t recruit tall people, for instance. There is a height restriction for those who want to work in its mobile surveillance teams, but that is quite different to the digital stuff. It doesn’t kill anyone either. “The Security Service is subject to the rule of law in the same way as any other public body.”

That said, you do have to be very secretive. I am told: “You must not discuss your application, other than with your partner or close family.” MI5 does not disclose the names of any of its staff – the sole exception being the director general. If you’re interested, you do have to ask yourself seriously if you’re discreet enough. You must be the sort of person who does not need to discuss work with friends and family.

Put bluntly: “If publicly celebrating your career successes is important to you, you should reconsider your suitability.”



• An in-depth knowledge of current technology.

• Demonstrable experience in any two of the following areas: computer forensics, computer and network security, internet and network protocols and network penetration testing.

• Software or database development or data-mining skills would also be advantageous.


• Sound knowledge of information security.

• Good understanding of present technical threats.

• Insight into current mainstream software platforms.

• An ability to identify weaknesses and countermeasures.

• Keen interest in new computer and network technologies.

• Working knowledge of at least two of the following areas: incident response, penetration testing, network auditing, Unix/Windows systems administration or Software Reverse Engineering.

Why not try the Digital Intelligence challenge to see if you have the kind of technical skills that MI5 is looking for?