back to article GCHQ losing its 'internet whizzes' to Microsoft, Google

British spooks, who are increasingly being tasked with wading into the so-called cybersecurity threat, have been fretting about the dearth of internet experts at GCHQ because the intelligence agency can't compete for expertise with the likes of Microsoft and Google. The agency's director told the Intelligence and Security …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother


    i had considered joining the team at the doughnut even the full rubber glove background check (which is needed) didn't put me off. However what did was that the skill set they want and the offer of pay for this ~25k is just plain wrong.

    I ended up turning down a scholarship to stay in academia and took a job with another US I.T Giant which offered a much higher starting wage and far greater training/benefits and didn't require me to list what i had for breakfast 5 years ago. The jobs i was looking at wanted fresh grad's but with crippling debt from student loans (25k+ ) not to mention overdrafts/cards etc its a no brainer not to go in with them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Been there, done that.

      "i had considered joining the team at the doughnut even the full rubber glove background check (which is needed) didn't put me off. However what did was that the skill set they want and the offer of pay for this ~25k is just plain wrong."

      Point 1 is not that much of a bother; the vetting isn't that hard unless you are a dodgy person. The money on the other hand is crap, I definitely agree.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      That's the same reason I didn't join the Police NHTCU, the pay just didn't even begin to cover the skills they wanted.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I think that you're missing a point.

      It's not really a job that you'd do for the money.

      Being cynical: Paying enough to appeal to people's greed ensures that you are employing people easily swayed with cash. Hardly a good plan for Intelligence services.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Really ...

        ... they pay them loads of money but they do it secretly so they companies will _think_ they're luring them with better pay when really they're being spied on.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not enough pay

        "Paying enough to appeal to people's greed ensures that you are employing people easily swayed with cash. Hardly a good plan for Intelligence services."

        On the other hand, paying people in such positions barely enough to survive and slightly less than non-jobs, like the local council's Equality Officer probably isn't a good plan either. As a Russian friend commented on seeing the SIS pay for IT posts in London "That's why our guys can buy them so easily". The problem is that people in IT, engineering or sciences are seen as essentially "blue collar" in the UK.

      3. Anonymous Coward


        So you are trying to say that paying them so low that every Igor, Chan or Lin can buy them wholesale with his pocket money is a good idea?

        Do not think so.

        You have to pay at least the going rate to be able to attract reasonable quality people.

  2. McBread

    Disappointed of Tunbridge Wells

    You mean the end of Sneakers isn't realistic?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Don't be silly....'s just that the likes of Google, Facebook and MS are better at spying on people than GCHQ.

    1. The Cube

      But also

      The likes of Google, Facebook and MS tend to illegally imprison, torture and kill people rather less than the Intelligence services do. I don't remember hearing about FB grassing a person of interest up to the CIA to get them kidnapped, flown to Gitmo and tortured.

      Perhaps we should add "can't compete with an employer that can at least spell ethics" to the list of reasons why HM GOV can't keep smart people?

      1. DavCrav


        "Perhaps we should add "can't compete with an employer that can at least spell ethics" to the list of reasons why HM GOV can't keep smart people?"

        I'm sorry, you were talking about ethics and comparing with convicted-monopolist Microsoft, under-investigation-for-anti-trust Google, and constantly-copping-it-for-privacy-violations Facebook?

        I'm not saying they go round shooting people, but then neither does GCHQ. Wrong place. Google and GCHQ have very similar goals in mind, namely to intercept all information about people on the Internet; the main difference is that GCHQ does it only to certain people, and Google does it to everyone.

        1. An nonymous Cowerd

          GCHQ only does it to certain people?

          "GCHQ" by R.J .Aldrich isbn-9780007312658 seems to imply that GCHQ does intercept everyone and anyone since ukusa; duchess of york, western union, harold wilson, (NSA FoI request found 1056 documents on diana likely sourced from Cheltenham)...... Google doesn't intercept me as I use baidu as my main search engine ('GCHQ' has 42100 hits on and I block the other google services.....I imagine that GCHQ uses unblockable legally defined interfaces to snoop? what other elint/comint/sigint provider can I choose?

          the GCHQ parliamentary audit report stated that the average cost to UK Gov of each GCHQ worker is around £45000. I think that would need to double to meet the developing cyberchallenge

          1. Gordon 10

            I lol'd

            "Google doesn't intercept me - I use baidu."

            So the Chinese Govt knows all about you rather than google.

            Hmm that's an improvement...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward


              Well I have a llot less to worry about from the Chinese than I do from bored British spooks and cops looking to wreck a persons life for shits and giggles.

  4. Serif

    Simple solution

    They could offshore the work to India. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

    1. JohnG

      Cowboys and Indians

      ...or they could get some guys in from India on ICTs. Each one to be rotated within 12 months to avoid NI.

  5. Roger Greenwood

    Payment by results.

    Offer a proper bonus (say 20% of funds/goods recovered, 20% of the damage caused/prevented etc) and job applications will improve. Money talks.

    Mind you the costs associated with a website defacement incident might suddenly get a bit lower next year.

    1. JimC

      > Payment by Results...

      Though isn't payment by results rather looked down on when it comes to justice related activities... Would't it be like offering traffic wardens a cut of every parking ticket they issue, a move which I doubt would be univetrsally popular...

    2. Marvin the Martian

      And how do you calculate the value of crime prevented?

      Especially in terrorism where a lot of the damage is mental (worry and stress), hence failure to invest, etc? Or do you work in the music industry, where generating ridiculous numbers of "lost sales through downloads" is standard practice?

      That of course on top of the mentioned problem most sane people have with payment-in-cuts-of-crime, not so different from "protection money".

  6. JimC

    But this can't be true...

    The Daily Mail and the Telegraph keeps telling us that public sector employees earn more than private sector ones...

    1. Richard 102


      Not the ones with usable skills. The paperpushers and timeservers do ...

    2. Tony S

      Papers, huh!

      The news papers are not there to print the news; they print articles that will help them sell advertising space.

      In the public sector, most pay is done through a complex series of payscales. If you are on a given grade, you get that pay with limited options for change. In some cases they get more than an equivalent in the private sector, in some cases they get less. It does work both ways.

      I would suggest that in this case the problem is that somone in the higher echelons has decreed that the relevant job can be done by minions at a set grade - and they won't allow a change to the grade level. Very short sighted, but not uncommon. (And yes, this happens in the private sector as well)

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Because the public sector outsources the lowpaid jobs.

      Your tabloids don't point out that govt has outsourced all low-paying jobs --- from cleaners to call centre handlers* --- so that the entire comparison is meaningless.

      *Some time ago, call centre staff at S***l on behalf of Dept Work&Pensions got £6.72/hour. Arguable, after all markup etc this costs DWP about £15/h... So if you assume a "ghost" DWP worker doing that job for those £15, that ghost would be far better paid than the private sector one.

  7. Sekundra


    "recommended that the Cabinet Office should consider the introduction of bonuses for specialist skills"...

    This is where things get tricky, as at this point HMG realises that such bonuses would have to compete with London-based Financial Services, Google, Apple, etc. and then goes mental at the sums involved.

    Remember - in Government, your pay is based on the supposed level of management responsibility in the main: start deciding pay scales around professional competancies and the Trade Unions for one will get very restless, as will the SCS (Senior Civil Service) who won't like the idea of people far 'junior' to them earning considerably more money.

    If one is a very highly vetted contractor however *ahem*, you can work in various Government departments because the attitude is "Oh, you're just temporary". The fact that some contractors spend years and years in a single place is something the ISC might like to examine...

    Whether HMG really do open this can of worms however is therefore an entirely different question!

    1. dogged

      Yeah but...

      "The fact that some contractors spend years and years in a single place is something the ISC might like to examine..."

      I did that. HMRC got very unhappy about it and I had to quit. My bosses got very unhappy about that but 25K would have looked good given the tax take that Revenue wanted to impose.

      1. mccp

        @ dogged

        Presumably because of some wheeze that meant that you paid less tax than an equivalent full-time employee? In my experience HMRC don't give a hoot about your employment status, unless you are using it to deny them revenue.

    2. Dr Andrew A. Adams

      Military Does it Better (and iPods as much as salary, perhaps)

      It's interesting that the CIVIL service can't handle this while the military service can and does quite easily. A specialist corporal (you don't stay at private if you're a specialist, basically) in a highly technical area will earn far more than the officers "above" him/her until you get to a really quite senior rank like full Colonel.

      I wonder how much the problem is also issues like not being able to take one's iPhone/iPod or whatever in to work. I heard a from a credible source recently that it's this aspect that's putting off good grads from going to work at the NSA.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just the money

    Having a family, I wouldn't even consider it because it's a high-risk job, compared to working for some corporate giant. Last thing I'd want is my family being put in danger by some nutter/foreign security service because of the things I was privy to.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      You too?

      The idea of being stripped, murdered, stuffed in a bag, dumped in a bath, left to decompose for two weeks unnoticed, followed by a comprehensive character assassination at the hands of Murdoch certainly lacks appeal versus my day job...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Look at the bright side..

        .. anything past "murdered" is no longer your problem. It's more the events leading up to that stage that worry me..

      2. Anonymous John

        Re You too?

        Gareth Williams was a keen cyclist. Why would a spook choose such a bizarre method of killing, rather than a more straightforward hit and run?

    2. Anonymous Coward

      That's why I refused deeper vetting

      In the days of the IRA I was offered deep vetting, and the officials got VERY pissed off that I politely thanked them for the honour and said no. Maybe I should have told them that I knew how safe the lists of people with higher clearance were kept, and I really had no intention to become an entry on a hit list.

      I was proven right several years later, but you're a jerk if something like that gives you satisfaction - people died.

      I find the pay thing interesting. It's quite OK to throw out £1200/day at some SC level cleared CLAS consultant who can barely spell "command line", but to pay the people that have the very special skills to defend the nation is somehow difficult. I guess that means you'll just have to re-hire them as consultants and triple your overhead..


  9. CD001



    I need some real internet whizzes in order to do cyber


    *sniggers like a 12 year old*

  10. g e

    Labour's Interception Modernisation Programme


    That is all

  11. Ru

    "I need some real internet whizzes in order to do cyber"

    I put on my robe and wizard hat.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    I bet their are not the only ones

    I've visited other Government labs in the past and I was struck how young everyone was. The only conclusion I could think of was the secret research projects eventually turn the staff into 40W versions of Doctor Manhattan who are quietly taken away, or the pay sucks and they don't stay.

  13. Sekundra

    And another thing...

    While I'm lunching:

    1. I wonder to what degree my previous post applies to ALL Government departments, not just the Security & Intelligence Agencies?

    2. For those who know how Government works, the responses in the original report to the question of a single Vetting department for all three Agencies are well worth a read for the "lulz" as I believe the kids put it... ;)

  14. Ben 60

    Public sector pay

    Aren't we told that the public sector doesn't need to compete and so doesn't need to meet the salaries offered by the private sector?

    This is the end result when you expect people to work for peanuts and be grateful for it.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    If the BBC can get away with it

    Then why can't GCHQ?

    The BBC overpay people with our money so I see no reason why another government dept (dripped in irony) cannot do the same.

    1. Jim Morrow

      apply clue above

      it's obviously escaped your understanding that the bbc is not part of central government. or that gchq doesn't make and broadcast tv/radio programmes featuring graham fucking norton. at least i don' t think they do.

      it's a pity that before you started on your daily fail rant about the bbc, you didn't consider the even more lavish managment salaries and perks on offer at lots of other public bodies. like the police, local councils, network rail, nhs trusts, the post office, etc to pick a few examples at random. the public money wasted at beeb is teeny compared to what's pissed up against the wall for the chief executives and boards in these organisations.

      1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

        IntelAIgent Solutions for Virtual Problems with Reality ©

        "it's obviously escaped your understanding that the bbc is not part of central government." ..... Jim Morrow Posted Thursday 14th July 2011 17:36 GMT

        Oh please, Jim Morrow, you cannot be serious. Of course they are, for how else would politicians and civil servants be able to justify and carry out their raids on the wealth system to provide themselves with that which you might want and your money pays for?

        Are you telling us that the daily showings of the shenanigans of politicians are a sort of perverse ranting entertainment to lighten and occupy the hearts and minds of the masses with their shared and aired claptrap, rather than being any sort of leadership information on what a cabal in a cabinet of a government office are doing?

        If that is the best that the BBC can do for entertainment and enlightenment .... wasting taxpayers money entertaining the masses with the news and views of ranting and self-servering expensive politicians ..... then is it surely in need of rebuilding with a complete overhaul and remake of its Virtual Operating Systems, with executive powers driven and delivered from a whole new management structure and creative content department.

        Done properly, would the BBC then be a perfect central government tool, with smarter programming which sublimely programs hearts and minds to virtually accept as the global reality, whatever picture IT and media create, via the news and views which imaginative planning programmers and BBC controllers deliver.

        Quite what legitimate further good use or viable reason there would then be for the maintenance and retention of posturing pontificating politicians, whenever IT and media presents the views of the world that one is led to believe are true and worthy of presentation, is uncertain and it would probably be the case that they are an anachronism to be rendered redundant.

  16. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Ethics is a killer...

    You will find youngsters with stars in their eyes and dreams of James Bond in these places....

    but once they realise just what it is they're doing, and the nature of the hegemony they are trying to impose on the world, a lot of the ones who still have a conscience leave.

    The ones who are sociopaths stay, which is why these places have the reputation they have....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That's rather one-sided

      You only ever read about disclosures and misses, they happen to do a couple of good things in there as well. The problem is that you'll never hear about it, because intelligence that comes cold in the open tends to disclose how it has been obtained - a fact that a string of former News of the World journalists will have discovered at their cost.

      This is also why I don't like the Wikileaks BS about "no harm" done by their indiscriminate releases - they know full well that the ones that *are* harmed by such disclosures cannot be acknowledged, which is IMHO a rather cynical abuse.

      Most people tend to do a job they think is worthwhile - in any industry, even spook town. Judging without knowledge is, well, not terribly bright..

  17. Sekundra

    RE: Ethics is a killer

    Your medication. Now please.

  18. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    twas ever such

    Many years ago (back when an evil empire was fighting brave insurgents in afghanistan) I worked for a similar mob.

    They obviously needed to recruit the best, so they only bothered visiting Oxbridge - I got in because someone thought a peasant from I.C. would be amusing.

    The vetting was even more amusing, "did any of the masters at school ever talk about socialism?" - I'm at a comprehensive in Newcastle!

    The real joke was how they beat the salary issues. The civil service has rigid pay grades, to pay somebody more you simply promote them. So we had meetings for grade X and above which would have the heads of various departments plus a dozen scruffy programmers in their 20s who had been made a grade X simply to pay a competitive salary.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Salary? Salary? Obviously the wrong motivation dear chap.

      I remember the days when you had to be promoted just to qualify for a swivel chair. Then arms on your chair. Then a coat rack. It was so easy to know your place just by looking at the person's furniture and accessories.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I need some real internet whizzes in order to do cyber"

    Here's a cluepon, guv. Come back to me when you've found out how to redeem it.

    There's the bigger problem of pay of course, where the certainty of civil service just isn't weighing up against the money any longer, and not just for high tech and other high clue jobs. So they buy the expertise from even higher paid consultancies instead, and they do that so well massive price overruns are not merely expected, they're absolute certainty. No wonder just about all government services are, er, shall we say, somewhat creaky. Their increased reliance on high technology and all that doesn't help of course. Doomed we are! Doomed I say!

    Then again, neither google nor the secret service nor anyone else for that matter wanted to hire me. "Sucks to be them" I mumbled, starving. Can't live off of retained sanity alone I'm afraid.

  20. fishman

    US government

    I work at a large US government military research lab. The quality of the recent hires has dropped considerably - the combination of lower pay and talk of cuts in pensions and health care has driven the top candidates away.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Public sector and technical talent,...

    always an issue when it comes to personnel in high-skill technical jobs. The money in civvy street tech is BIG! and the public sector / military pay models just can't cope with that sort of thing (and you get every numpty with dollar signs in his eyes trying to get in if specialist rates are paid).

    The best way would be to (dare I say it) contract this sort of work out to a consultancy company, who would be security-cleared for this sort of work. That way, proper corporate rates could be paid to the techs and proper private sector skills brought into a government agency.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    outsource it all


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