Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Sunday, Feb 25, 2024

GCHQ: How being a spy helps me with online dating

GCHQ: How being a spy helps me with online dating

What comes next in the sequence? 7, 8, 5, 5, 3, 4, 4 ?

We'll give you the answer at the end of the article but it's solving problems like this that first drew Amena to apply for a spot on GCHQ's summer school programme to become a trainee spy.

GCHQ is the UK's intelligence, security and cyber agency and their mission is to keep the country safe by analysing and disrupting the online communications of groups that pose a threat to the UK.

Of course Amena isn't her real name. For security reasons she can't tell us what it is. Radio 1 Newsbeat spoke to her via Zoom, but her camera had to be turned off.

What she can tell us is that she is in her early twenties and is first-generation British Bangladeshi, she did the summer school two years ago and now works at GCHQ full time.

Diversity issues

It's candidates like Amena that the security services are trying to get on board.

In the past, the intelligence agency hasn't had the best reputation for recruiting ethnic minorities.

In October 2020, the head of the organisation admitted they needed more diverse recruits to "reflect the natural national picture".

This year the number of female sign-ups almost doubled and those from ethnic minority backgrounds tripled compared to 2020.

Amena says diversity within GCHQ is important because "when you come from a different background, you might have a different way of looking at things".

But she has chosen not to tell her family what she does and describes that as "difficult".

"In my culture it's important you make your parents proud and it's very difficult to do that when you're in a job where you can't tell them what you do.

"I worry they'd be too proud to keep it to themselves."

GCHQ was founded in 1919

None of Amena's friends know what she does either.

"When you start at GCHQ you're warned about being careful with what you say outside of work, but the saddest thing is, people don't actually ask about work.

"I often sit in in a conversation, worried if somebody will ask about what I do and they just don't. People are quite happy to talk about themselves."

Catfish training

Amena is now an ethical hacker for GCHQ. She works in a team which legally hacks terrorists, disrupts criminal plans and protects the UK from evolving threats, such as ransomware attacks - computer viruses which demand money.

"It's really cool, frontline work. Which is exciting," she says.

"Every so often, I'll be sitting in a meeting and thinking, 'I can't believe that they're letting me into all this information'."

By all accounts, this is complex work, but for anyone who has watched MTV's Catfish, Amena says she pretty much played the role of presenter Nēv Schulman in her summer school training.

It comes in handy when online dating. She says she does background checks on potential dates by using "open source techniques" - research tools which anyone can use.

"Look for any news articles that they've been mentioned in or look at their social media pages, see if they're registered to vote, or you can reverse-search images of them. That sort of thing is all readily available."

"It's something that I do for myself and definitely something that everybody should do just to make sure we're being safe."

'I'm more relaxed now'

Each day when she enters the building, Amena swipes three different ID cards and needs a code to access her notepad. But despite the high security and jobs she works on, she says she's actually felt "more relaxed" since starting.

"I can read the news and brush off any anxiety, because I know the people working on things and I have the trust in them."

Right now is a busy time for Amena and her colleagues. Just last week, GCHQ's director said ransomware attacks have doubled in the last year in the UK but she stresses they all have outside lives.

"There's a common misconception that you've got to be a nerd, or your entire life has to revolve around work, but I get to spend a lot of my weekends at the pub."

And if you're here for the answer to the riddle, it's six. The sequence is the number of letters in the names of months. August has six letters.


Related Articles

Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner