British spymasters are taking a leaf out of Israel’s book by launching a scheme that would permit the country’s smartest web experts and technology entrepreneurs to be hired on short-term contracts to tackle global security threats.
That idea has been inspired by work by the Israeli government, which has enlisted tech stars to work in the Israel Defence Forces’ Unit 8200 – the equivalent of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ,) the information and data gathering arm of British intelligence. By following the Israeli model, the British intelligence services would benefit from the input of technology experts who would otherwise be unlikely to sign up for life-long jobs as government employees.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said in a speech last month: “I have long admired the Israeli start-up nation which is home to more high-tech start-ups per capita than any other country. What struck me most was that the Israeli culture of innovation wasn’t down to the facilities or the technology, impressive though they were.”
Maude continued: “It was the people – and the human relationships – they were the critical element. It came down to a group of individuals, perhaps as few as just 2 or 3, sitting together to find a solution or to work through a brilliant idea – thinking together, experimenting together, failing, learning, adapting and ultimately succeeding.”
A security source added: “Although there is more thinking to be done, we think the Israeli model is interesting and are considering if we can learn from it to build on the significant work that GCHQ already does, in partnership with industry and academia, to develop the technical skills the UK needs to meet its cyber security objectives.”