Spies without IT skills face redundancy

The UK’s domestic security agency says that ‘dozens’ of senior employees will be offered redundancy to make way for younger candidates with – among other attributes – better IT skills.

It was revealed this week that MI5’s director general Jonathan Evans told a committee of MPs that a program of redundancies is underway and that senior staff lacking technology skills are being considered. “I think some of the staff perhaps aren’t quite the ones that we will want for the future,” he said.

Patrick Mercer, chairman of the Parliamentary subcommittee on counter terrorism, said the profile of the typical MI5 operative must change to reflect the change ways in which terrorist organise and communicate, and the growing threat of cyber attacks.

“Our enemies use every available method to attack including using technology. We have to be aware of the imminent threats of cyber attacks and the old generation of MI5 have to be completely comfortable using computers and the latest technology,” he said. “We need people from all walks of life who can speak a range of languages and possess certain technical skills.”  

Last year, it was revealed the UK government had employed former hackers in its anti-cyber crime and cyber terrorism initiatives. "You need youngsters who are deep into this stuff,” said cyber security minister Lord West at the time. “If they have been slightly naughty boys, very often they really enjoy stopping other naughty boys.”

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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