Scoring a new job as a cybersecurity specialist with the U.K. government could be as easy as solving a cryptographic visual puzzle containing 160 paired alphanumeric characters.
The United Kingdom's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is looking for new recruits to join its team, and the agency (the U.K equivalent to the U.S. National Security Agency) is using the complicated puzzle, on a website called www.canyoucrackit.co.uk, to weed out applicants.
Applicants have until Dec. 12 to solve the puzzle; doing so doesn't automatically get them the job, but directs them to the GCHQ's application page, which shows two vacancies, a CyberSecurity Specialist and a Senior CyberSecurity Specialist. Located in Cheltenham in southwest England, the jobs pay a yearly salary of £25,446 (about $40,000) and £31,152 (about $50,000), respectively.
Of course, money is just one reward for a job that puts you on the frontlines of the war on cybercrime.
The job description reads, "In a game where our adversaries operate with no rules and unknown boundary lines, you will be exploring the possibilities and inventing the seemingly impossible."
The 'Can You Crack It?' Web page is spreading through social-media sites in the hope of attracting "an audience beyond conventional graduate streams," Lachlan Urquhart from the Britain-based security firm Sophos wrote. And it's not the first time the GCHQ has taken an unconventional approach to recruiting new talent.
In 2007, Urquhart said the organization advertised job openings using digital posters in computer games like Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six, and in 2009 they did the same using the Xbox Live network.
However, the best spies also know how to take shortcuts. Whether deliberately or by error, the GCHQ application can be accessed without cracking the code — all a user has to do is append "soyoudidit.asp" to the end of the URL in any Web browser. Good luck!