Exclusive: Yorkshire spy base hunts for experts in war on ‘hackers’

GCHQ Scarborough: 5ft thick walls of the WWII bunker. 'Picture by Gerard Binks.
GCHQ Scarborough: 5ft thick walls of the WWII bunker. 'Picture by Gerard Binks.
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A YORKSHIRE spy base is launching a major recruitment drive to attract a new generation of cyber experts to combat the growing online threat posed by criminal gangs, hackers, terrorists and foreign intelligence agencies.

Government communications base GCHQ Scarborough is seeking dozens of the brightest school leavers and graduates to help it combat ever more ingenious cyber criminals. Linguists, computer experts and electronic engineers are at the top of the wanted list.

The WWII bunker on the base

The WWII bunker on the base

The Scarborough base, the world’s oldest signals intelligence gathering site, is the Northern recruitment hub for the Cheltenham-based Government Communications HQ.

The expansion plans were revealed to The Yorkshire Post during a tour of the base by a reporter and photographer, the first by a print journalist in its 100-year history.

A GCHQ Scarborough spokesman said dozens of new officers would be recruited from schools, colleges and universities. Recruits must be British and pass a vetting process which can take up to a year.

The most senior employee at Scarborough is Simon, 50, the Head of Station who prefers to keep his surname private. He wants top-notch recruits to meet the growing threat posed by cyber criminals.

“GCHQ used to be dominated by middle-aged men; the whole organisation is changing. The new people we are getting are extremely bright and ambitious. It’s reinvigorating the station and has caused everyone to raise their game.”

A GCHQ spokesman, Andy, added: “The bad people are getting ever more ingenious - we have to get more ingenious too. We need people with high end computer skills. We are keen to target the X-box generation who have been brought up online.”

A recent GCHQ recruit, a female maths graduate from Lincolnshire, who is 23, said secrecy is essential: “My family know where I work and a couple of my close friends. Anyone I don’t know, I say I work in the Civil Service. We are keeping people safe in this country and worldwide.

“It’s really rewarding work. I turned down a job in the private sector, even though it was more money.”

The recruitment drive is supported by ex-Army officer Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central, who said: “I’m convinced that in years to come the battle to protect our country will increasingly be fought online rather than the frontline.

“It’s vital therefore that we build up our cyber capabilities and ensure we have the expertise to counter new emerging threats. This scheme is a great example of how we can achieve that and give opportunities to young people in Yorkshire.”

David Kelly, Scarborough Council’s economic development manager, said: “The workforce expansion at the Irton Moor site is great news and we welcome GCHQ’s continuing commitment to the town and wider area.”

Spy base opens up to reveal cyber war on crime