back to article Fancy joining the SAS's secret hacker squad in Hereford as an electronics engineer for £33k?

A job ad blunder by the UK's Ministry of Defence has accidentally revealed the existence of a secret SAS mobile hacker squad. The secretive Computer Network Operations (CNO) Exploitation Unit had its cover blown on the MoD's external job ad website, as spotted by the ever eagle-eyed Alan Turnbull of Secret Bases. Based in …

  1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    No comment

    33K for that list of qualifications?

    UK government being a bunch of skinflints.... again

    1. Tom7

      Re: No comment

      My thoughts exactly. I think we all know the sort of skillset they'll actually get for that kind of money.

      1. xyz123 Silver badge

        Re: No comment

        What kind comrade? And will we be visiting cathedrals nearby?


      2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

        Re: No comment

        ... and you have to move to Hereford? No thanks. Not even if I get to see those wonderfully fit guys (or are they more the misfits and wierdos as desired by Cummings?).

    2. Graham Cobb Silver badge

      Re: No comment

      Maybe its a new way to find spies? If someone with those skills agrees to work for that money, then they must (i) have someone else really paying them, and (ii) some reason to want that job very badly. So, obviously, a spy.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No comment

        it's the opposite: it's looking to get people for whom

        financial gains isnt their main motivator.

        So they dont end up with a bunch of people who could turn

        when presented with money offers from foreign services.

        but still...33k is fn low..

    3. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: No comment

      They probably assume that electronics engineer lives in a shed with all his lab equipment and just drinks electrolytes from all the capacitors he or she collects at the local skip. For 33k he or she could extend a shed and maybe even buy a used oscilloscope.

    4. Ian Mason

      Re: No comment

      And in the very next story I read on el Reg, they're paying McKinsey £3 million for 8 weeks work. I'll save you reaching for the calculator - that's 242 years at £33k a year.

    5. DevOpsTimothyC

      Re: No comment

      I'm sure they just missed out stating that this is a part time role, 1 day a week

      1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

        Re: No comment

        1 day a week at that rate is 634 per day (at 52 weeks) before tax. If it was outside IR35, still bottom of the barrel...

        1. martyn.hare

          GCHQ only pays

          About £3k more for the same role with fewer requirements. Both of them claim you’ll be working for a team of elites, both of them claim the skills you will develop will be invaluable, except that you can’t disclose what you’ve been up to, so it’s all meaningless drivel.

          I’m sure the pension is great though,

          1. dinsdale54

            Re: GCHQ only pays

            A friend interviewed for GCHQ some years back. The process was bizarre. I was his 2nd reference and had a multi page questionnaire to complete. His first reference had an in person interview. My friend was interviewed for 2 days.

            All this was just for the security clearance which - get this - you have to go through BEFORE they tell you what the job is and what it pays.

            After jumping through the hoops my mate finally discovers that the job was a java programming job at 10K a year less than he was currently on. Much time could have been saved etc.

            But it all makes work for the working man to do.

    6. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Re: No comment

      "UK government being a bunch of skinflints.... again"

      Au contraire mon ami...

      The UK government can be very generous: chums and prospective future employers/directorships

    7. Chris G

      Re: No comment

      Sounds like they want Colin Furze with an electronics degree. But no interest in a decent wage.

      1. Persona

        Re: No comment

        Or perhaps Shane Wighton (Stuff Made Here) though he is American.

        If they they need to bullseye a moving target with a bow and arrow, and are not experienced archers, he's the guy to make them something to perfect their aim.

    8. chivo243 Silver badge

      Re: No comment

      I make a more than that already, and if I had the skillz needed for that posting, I could easily be doubling what I already earn, which would be way more than 33k ffs...

    9. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: No comment

      What, the excitement of the job isn’t enough?!?

      Right job, but what planet with the skills for that pay

    10. Conor_O

      Re: No comment

      Hum. That list matches my previous job. Unfortunately, so does the pay (€37k. Which equals £31500. In Dublin. I'm an idiot). I was working for a "startup company" aligned to an Irish University on an EU Horizon 2020 project. That's the usual pay level on those type of projects (it's often less).

      As you can imagine they spend an awful lot of time whining about not being able to find qualified people. (I was older and not employed so felt I didn't have a choice). I've seen plenty of roles like "Experienced ARM Cortex M developer wanted. €30k." In Cork. They should really mention that you'll be living in a green bin.

      Should have gone into finance (or adult movies, there's a certain amount of overlap there!).

    11. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: No comment

      Too true. But also, I suspect they want this person due to off the shelf kit no longee being repairable and the reason we should all be for Right To Repair.

      But really? Create prototypes for that shit money? Although better paid than me that person could take their prototype and sell it for alot more than 33k.

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No comment

      I came to the comments section to express the same thought.

      I worked as a university electronics technician for over 26 years - a job I left over four and a half years ago and was earning almost £40k a year back then, which was as high as you could go on the pay scale without taking on managerial duties - not my cup of tea. Education doesn't pay well for the skills people have either, although the pension is decent and the working environment is relaxed.

      I'd say I have pretty much all of those skills although I'm certainly not the cleverest of people out there. Work as a university electronics technician tends to mean you end up as "a jack of all trades and a master of none" to an extent. With that said, it seems like poor pay to me, so if they want truly clever people with all of those skills they really need to pay more.

    13. Retaliate

      Re: No comment

      Another scenario : the job is internally already sold, but due to regulations they need to post it publicly too. A job post like this is guaranteed no reaction and the internal transfer is guaranteed.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge


    The advert must assume that foreign government is already paying the candidate a salary.

    or they missed a zero.

  3. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Happened here in US

    Happened here in US. When I graduated from college, there were ads which, from job description, made it clear the US was still running their Star Wars program (that had supposedly been discontinued when I was in grade school). And these were not vague jobs listings were one could put two and two together to figure out what was going on, they were pretty specific descriptions of what one would be working on.

    (Note, I would not bring up the specific program etc., but it doesn't matter now, several years later they had some public demos anyway, so it's common knowledge that these supposedly discontinued projects were ongoing.)

  4. bofh1961

    Which meillennium is this again?

    The MoD wouldn't want to employ the sort or person who works because they have to, now would they? Of course not, they want a gentleman, a man with a private income that will give all for his country out of patriotism. A chap who went to the right school and will be happier to drive his own Bentley than a company car.

    1. DaemonProcess

      Re: Which meillennium is this again?

      more like an Aston.

      Sounds like they are after an Army Q, but wanting post-grad electronics for 33k is pathetic. Also what kind of pressure are the civvies under if it's a Lt Col in command? Sounds like they really wanted a qualified soldier but couldn't find one capable of original thought.

      1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

        Re: Which meillennium is this again?

        Sounds like they really wanted a qualified soldier but couldn't find one capable of original thought.

        I think that lot have a lot of original thoughts, given extensive post-graduate training and experience in skullduggery and shenanigans. Fitness only gets you so far.

        But agree on the salary, especially for central London. In the private sector, it can be hard enough to attract and retain the best staff on salaries much higher. But on a positive note, it could be worse. At least it's not based in Milton Keynes.

      2. spireite Silver badge

        Re: A prayer for those forced to use Teams

        With the best will in the world, you can' t afford a Vantage on 33K/yr

        You'd think they'd be paying a decent salary. Unless the real salary is a secret.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: A prayer for those forced to use Teams

          >You'd think they'd be paying a decent salary.

          But this if for a tradesman, chap probably doesn't even speak Greek. Probably end up being a northerner aswell

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: A prayer for those forced to use Teams

            Do you mean "man and surveillance van"?

        2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: A prayer for those forced to use Teams

          It's an outsourcing ad. No suitable candidates, "labour shortage!". Call the usual suspects. Directorships all round.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A prayer for those forced to use Teams

          Maybe the successful candidate will be supplied with clothing and housing and won't have a social life? That could save a lot on expenses.

  5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

    Who Dares Codes


    [ ] perl

    [ ] javascript

    [ [ Visual Basic

    [ ] machine code

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Who Dares Codes

      Software As Service?

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    The Much Bigger Picture Show. Who Dares Win Wins

    One valid excuse, for being pipped to the post, is that you haven't be paying very close attention, Gareth? :-)......

    Having said that though, such shenanigans as have secretive Computer Network Operations (CNO) Exploitation Units secrets exploited and exported, are by intelligent design practically impossible to virtually recognise as something for any sort of immediate particular or constant peculiar attention.

    And to tell y'all the truth, no matter how much the Public and Military Sector might prefer it to be different, is its IT and AI abilities and capabilities Primarily Proprietary Private and Premium Pirate Hosting Terrain, which has covetous conventional competition and traditional status quo opposition forces and services rendered both catastrophically ineffective and overwhelmingly vulnerable to increasingly rapid and irreversibly damaging defeats ...... which is the/a Much Bigger Picture Show too.

    Although, having said that, maybe there is a Lt Col with such necessary savvy and a SAS facility successfully ACTively engaged and stealthily deployed at work, rest and play in such fields? However would you ever rightly know?

    1. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

      Re: The Much Bigger Picture Show. Who Dares Win Wins

      And if the MoD and secret SAS mobile hacker squads on UK Special Forces (UKSF) operations aren't programmed and programming to deal effectively and decisively with such competition and/or opposition as is exposed in informative tales from other intelligence sources at the belligerent end of the practical scales, ...... From PsyOp to MindWar ..... that will be an extremely lucrative and exceptionally rewarding, wholly private and pirate mercenary affair, which cannot help but reflect very badly upon the available intelligence of MoD leadership, both in-house from those dressed in uniform and those others in the shadows elsewhere in civvies thinking to pull almighty strings pimping and pumping and dumping missions for future engagement.

    2. PhilipN Silver badge

      Re: The Much Bigger Picture Show. Who Dares Win Wins

      I was just about to comment on a new Reg record : many comments but not a single downvote.Phew!

  7. Hate2Register

    The ad is a declaration of intent.

    Plenty of lads will give their eye-teeth for a start like this. If it goes well, they will be able to branch out into all sorts of spooky work. Plus, international finance and security companies will look at a CV like this and make all kinds of offers. And after medical, pension and career progression is taken into account, £33k will grow pretty quick. Kingsman anyone?

    1. ibmalone

      Re: The ad is a declaration of intent.

      If it's a degree level start it's not too bad. Not sure how fast it will grow though. A friend looked at Qinetiq years ago and realised none of the actual engineers were getting paid that much. Not as derisory as some of the GCHQ starting salaries when they started advertising openly.

      (Possibly, as above, they're looking for people who can't be bought as they already have all the cash they could want?)

      1. LastTangoInParis

        Re: The ad is a declaration of intent.

        I wouldn’t expect a grad to have all those skills. With 10 years experience on top, maybe, but then I’d expect considerably more than bottom end of a grads starting salary.

        1. ibmalone

          Re: The ad is a declaration of intent.

          Not sure, the only qualification mentioned is a BSc, and none of the rest of it has the "demonstrate..." or similar specification I'd expect if they were looking for prior experience. There's an exciting Q-branch list of responsibilities, but it could all be interpreted at a range of levels, the most basic of which is not too dissimilar to a final year engineering project.

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: The ad is a declaration of intent.

            Surely you don't need experience. You're presumably sending kit out in to the field. Now in a normal job you need experience to make sure that kit you've built doesn't explode. But in this case...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The ad is a declaration of intent.

      A CV with a big gap and no explanation for it?

  8. TRT Silver badge


    Take a pay cut? Why would one want to do that??!!

  9. Anonymous Coward

    Low pay and no danger money for abseiling from helicopters

    > and will be tasked with delivering prototype solutions directly to the soldiers and officers of a unique and specialised military unit.

    I've heard of staff being parachuted in to a project but the chance of that happening for this job seems rather more literal. Is there danger money and a fitness test?

    1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

      Re: Low pay and no danger money for abseiling from helicopters

      Why would they care about cannon fodder? It's only 33k after all...

  10. David 132 Silver badge

    On the plus side…

    …the successful candidate would at least find out what colour the boathouse door is.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    security risk

    In my experience, one of the bigger hurdles in gaining clearances above basic is having any financial worries, as they believe this makes you more vulnerable to bribes. Which is probably absolute poppycock as I'm sure you can bribe the well off!

    Nevertheless, given this is what they mistakenly believe, surely it's mad to underpay your talent so badly?

  12. A random security guy

    They can outsource it. To Russia or China

    For that salary, a UK employee needs a second source of income. Will probably have to drive for Uber at night.

    1. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: They can outsource it. To Russia or China

      The Truth is sometimes stranger than Fiction. Some years ago the company I was working at got a contract to design/improve a piece of FPGA based hardware, stuff that looked as if it came out of a tank. The contract itself was from one of those defense companies that had hollowed out its development capability till all that was left was a project manager. The work was done by the only FPGA people we had, one being Russian, the other Chinese. Its true that both were naturalized US citizens -- obviously, being DoD work it had to be undertaken by 'merkans -- but it was still somewhat ironic.

      (Since the cost of living -- and housing -- is now similar between California and much of the UK the 33K figure is a bit of a joke given the job expectations. The work might be interesting but we all have to eat.)

  13. David Roberts

    Slightly over specified?

    Commentards are (enjoyably) treating this as a realistic job spec

    Most will have seen civilian job adverts with similar role and skill inflation once Marketing and Senior Management have bigged up the job spec to make their unit look far more important than it is

    Probably looking for a JavaScript programmer who once held a soldering iron by the non hurty end.

    1. Mog_X

      Re: Slightly over specified?

      They might also need some painting experience in case the boathouse doors need touching up...

  14. TheVogon

    Domestic electricians expect circa £50K+. No wonder anything from the civil service or government organisations is generally pathetic.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Domestic electricians also declare they're earning 10500 in order to make sure they earn 50k. Hence why so many cried poverty during lockdown.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For 33k you'd be lucky to get someone with a worthless CEH certificate who thinks because they've taken a course on how to use outdated script kiddy tools against a vulnerable Web app that they're now a leet h4><0r. Or maybe someone who has taken an equally wordy and irrelevant Cissp exam.

    I've worked in information security for 20 years now and what we DO need in the industry is the bedroom nerd who ACTUALLY understands the technology at a low level, not someone who has watched spooks and thinks they can learn to hack on a course. It's all about the mindset and actual technical ability. 33k would also be an insult of course.

    The older professionals like myself will retire in due course and we'll be leaving your information in the hands of CEH certificate holders who can't even install windows on a pc. They're capable of running tools that other people have created and that's about it. I have direct experience of many staff like this.

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