MI6 | MI5 UK Security Service | SIS

SISS Recruitment

2019

Politics

New threats, old enemies

Politcal but more importantly, public, changes in Europe, notably Italy, Poland, Germany and others over recent years are causing increasing concern.  The rise of the far right 'neo-fascist' movements is gathering momentum and the usual diplomatic routes to entry are not having enough success.  When compared to the US, Europe in terms of size and number of (federal' like countries) is tiny.  However, the difference in political ideology goes much further than any Route 66.  Their brains tick differently and their histories are such, that even the closest of their neighbrours, struggles to learn what drives them, although clearly in the case of Poland, religion is a huge driver.  One well known far right rperesentative recently told his members that the reason Poland did not have much in the way of terrorism was because of their belief in God and more importantly, their family values.  Seemingly in a time warp, these are commonly held views and ones that will drive the current movements.  On the flip side, the country is riddled with alchoholism, drug related crime and (as with nearly all mainly Catholic countries) has a burgeoning and influential organised crime network.  Which is quite possibly more responsible for low terrorism levels than God himself?  Either way, there is a vast difference between Poland and even its more tech savvy neighbour Estonia and friends across the river in Helsinki.  Many of their neighbours are moving forward and constantly looking to reform and develop, as opposed to the Poles who remain very much a defensive nation.  One, which quite understandably, still bears the scars of both wars.  So, in these sorts of countries, especially ones with such strategic geo-political importance, intelligence gathering on the ground will prove more successful than current conventional cyber strategies.  Let's not forget also, it was not that long ago that the UK had its own issues with the trade unions and, in our case, far left movements which also required physical infiltration, a long time before cyber-surveillance.  So there are comparisons.  If the time bombs are ticking in countries like Italy, Germay and Poland, then the Intelligence Agencies will have planned and prepared for these events well before now.

Research

It's funny how things work out.  If there are planners at the main foreign intelligence agencies and they do look much further ahead to where things could be heading, there has to be some acknolwedgement that the individual, as a tech powerhouse, could be a game changer.  Sir Alex Younger refers to an Industrial Revolution 4.0 and he may well be right if technological changes and exponential growth produce the seismic shift in ALL aspects of our lives that we can expect.  Banking in the traditional form is gone.  It's on an App. Fintech security is now on our apps...look at 'almost anonymous' blockchain tech.  We have an AI Robot which is officially now a citizen in Saudi Arabia and legal systems in Europe that are years behind the curve on that one.  So a democratically elected AI MP maybe on the cards?  Why not? Instead of manifestos we get sleaze, corruption, mistrust, even death...so of course it's possible.  Information gathering.  Previously the preserve of the Intelligence Agencies and Law Enforcement.  We have more processing power in our pockets now, on our phones, than Clinton had as President. 

 

What is it historically that makes a government intelligence agency?  Financial Resources, Technology, Experience/Training and Information. How many of those are now quickly replaceable?  In turn. Financial resources.  Well it depends on the job in hand, but in essence, mutual societies have existed for years so its relative and replaceable.  Technology.  Most tech is privately owned with the Govenment being the main customer.  Technology is already more wideley and easily  available.  Experience?  Well, that can be a weakness.  There is a reason why many Foreign Intelligence organisations do NOT hire ex-military.  They are too regimented and set in their ways and generally less creative or flexible.  The same can be said for an experienced IO with twenty years under their belt.  The battlefield changes.  So, there are less and less barriers to entry and if the move to individual power is more than just a blip and is a seismic shift on a par with an Industrial Revolution, then changes of some description are certainly afoot.

 

The startling rise in the size and number of Private Intelligence Agencies is surely a by-product of this shift away from centralized government control of a nation's intelligence operations. Sophisticated vigilante groups already seek out and construct complex cases against criminals on behalf of the Police...why?  Because they can.  Just three examples where the power is shifting more and more to the individual.  To the extent that ironically, the free markets that have enabled the development of such innovative radical systems and now causing shifts that socialists dreamt of for years.  Less Government power and more power to the indviduals in society.  One cannot deny it is happening and based on the current trajectory of change and assuming Sir Alex's words are accurate, I hope MI6 has plan B ready to roll out when it happens, because if they have not, then there may well be a few out there already planning for such a scenario. Maybe small groups or individual power houses on an equal footing in almost all areas to pick up the security torch when it is dropped. Not founded on any particular ideology or beleif system....just better!.We should make it clear we have no political agenda (as per our Statements of Principle), we are not religious in any way and do not support or condone any form of radicalist action, but what we are, are realists.  There are lots of IF's and we assume that an organisation such as MI6 considers all these IF's, but we also know damn well that it does not have the time or resources to cover all bases.  Maybe this tech, AI, IOT, 5G, Blockchain thingy is just a blip and it will come to nothing! Maybe it won't all have a signficant long term effect on society or affect, and possibly fuel, the increasing renewed moves back to extremist views we are witnessing in countries like Poland, Italy and Germany.  Hey, it's probably not even worth thinking about...gulp. Full article.

 

What is it historically that makes a government intelligence agency?  Financial Resources, Technology, Experience/Training and Information. How many of those are now quickly replaceable?  In turn. Financial resources.  Well it depends on the job in hand, but in essence, mutual societies have existed for years so its relative and replaceable.  Technology.  Most tech is privately owned with the Govenment being the main customer.  Technology is already more wideleyand easily  available.  Experience?  Well, that can be a weakness.  There is a reaosn why many Foreign Intelligence organisations do NOT hire ex-military.  They are too regimented and set in their ways and generally less creative or flexible.  The same can be said for an experienced IO with twenty years under their belt.  The battlefield changes.  So, there are less and less barriers to entry and if the move to indivudal power is more than just a blip and is a seismic shift on a par with an Inductrial Revoltion, then changes of some description are certainly afoot.

 

The startling rise in the size and number of Private Intelligence Agencies is surely a by-product of this shift away from centralized government control of a nation's intelligence operations. Sophisticated vigilante groups already seek out and construct complex case against criminals on behalf of the Police...why?  Because they can.  These are just three of maybe thirty examples where the power is shifting more and more to the individual.  To the extent that ironically, the free markets that have enabled the development of such innovative radical systems and now causing shifts that socialists dreamt of for years.  Less Government power and more power to the indviduals in society.  One cannot deny, it is happening and based on the current trajectory of change and assuming Sir Alex's words are accurate, I hope MI6 has plan B ready to roll out when it happens, because if they have not, then there may well be a few out there already planning for such a scenario i.e small groups or individual power houses on an equal footing in almost all areas to pick up the security torch when it is dropped. We should make it clearm we have no political agenda (as per our Statement of Principle), we are not religious in any way and do not support or condone any form of radicalist action, but what we are, are realists.  There are lots of IF's and we assume that an organisation such as MI6 conisders all these IF's, but we also know damn well that it does not have the time or resources to cover all bases.  Maybe this tech, AI, IOT, 5G, Blockchain thingy is just a blip and it will come to nothing! Maybe it won't all have a signficant long term effect on society or affect, and possibly fuel, the increasing renewed moves back to extremist views we are witnessing in countries like Poland, Italy and Germany.  Hey, it's probably not even worth thinking about...gulp. Full article.

Recruitment

There are many ways to recruit a spy.  Certainly too many to cover in an article such as this. It really depends on who the particular intelligence agency is looking for, which organization, and what its objective is.  It will come as no surprise that some methods are more or less well publicized than others.  For SIS in particular, given that the organization did not officially exist until 1994, many of the methods used for recruitment are, for obvious reasons, still closely guarded secrets.  Graduate recruitment is one thing, but developing a potential (currently operational) agent is another, especially if they are already in full time professional employment or indeed, working for another intelligence agency. 

 

The PR stance at the moment may well be to promote a progressive, modern image, and in many ways it most definitely is.  However, the traditional ‘tap on the shoulder’ approach was really symptomatic of a desire to retain control of the recruitment process.  To that end, things have not really changed.  SIS has, and always will be, more cautious about the ‘walk in’ candidate and will have entirely different, and more complex, processes in place to evaluate such a person.  Furthermore, the complex recruitment cycle is now refined to the point where SIS can recruit individuals without them even knowing.  Now that’s surely the recruiters’ holy grail.  As with all things ‘intelligence’ orientated, there is a constant focus on resources and purchasing power.  SIS needs to maximise the value of each pound spent and therefore, long and complex targeting of individuals used to gain information, has to be considered against the costs of recruiting those intelligence officers charged with interpreting that information.  So, in essence, a balancing act in the same way as any other modern-day commercial organisation.  Let’s not forget however, that despite the budget allocated by the Intelligence Committee and oversight of section 5, 6 and GCHQ, there are still relatively few intelligence officers out there. Especially in the ever-changing competitive world of private intelligence agencies and their corporate counterparts which compounds the problems caused by the brain drain and external temptations.

 

SIS Chief Alex Younger said in his speech at St Andrews that “If you think you can spot an MI6 officer, you are mistaken. It doesn’t matter where you are from. If you want to make a difference and you think you might have what it takes, then the chances are that you do have what it takes, and we hope you will step forward.”  Clearly this is a nod to the future and the recognition that with Espionage 4.0 around the corner, intelligence agencies need to invest now and allow time for the training and development of new individuals.  Individuals that could take two or more years to develop before assuming roles of increased responsibility and clout.  This is the likely reason and not, as some cynics have suggested, merely PR propaganda developed for the benefit of our adversaries to suggest that UK intelligence is growing.  The argument here being that even if the funds are not available, and even if the organisation is cutting costs, creating the illusion that the funds are there is just as effective.

 

So far the common denominator is money.  Whether it is the level of funding, or the maximisation of value for each pound spent.  Mr Younger’s comments clearly pushes ideology as a motivator and driver for potential candidates, and one can hardly blame him.  Let’s face it, it would be hard for SIS to push the financial incentive when faced with free market competition.  So, it is a given that the organisation has to, regardless of whether it is true or not, sell the notion of ‘making a difference’ as the key driver.  So, enter the ‘buddhist spy’ i.e. someone who has forsaken all desires of financial or materialistic rewards in favour of….that little bit more.  Here, the idea that freedom is power is never more true, but by god it’s a tough one to find, especially in the younger recruits.  Money can never be the sole motivator in this profession, but the complexities of life, youth, character and practical issues, means it simply is important.  One cannot really attribute this simply to youth either.  Yes, the younger recruits may well be ambitious and dazzled at the prospect of financial reward, but then again so is the 42 year old married man with three children.  So its not that.  Indeed, the tap on the shoulder system which focussed on the Oxbridge folk probably worked largely because they were the elite and on the whole from upper middle class affluent backgrounds where they always has the family vault to nudge open in times of desperation.  Ironically, this student and the buddhist spy are similar in that they are both free from financial pressures thereby making them more effective. 

 

So, they key thread to pull from the above is that there is power to be had from the freedom of external influences.  Without wanting to drift down the spiritual or philosophical road too much, a successful spy in todays world could be the one who can happily remove any influence, both positive or negative.  In the case of the honey trap, it would be rendered useless if the person did not attribute so much influence to sex.  In the case of financial reward, bribery or extortion, if one truly has zero desire for money then it is powerless.  In the case of power itself, if one is sufficiently self confident to the point where the affirmation from power is not needed, then that too is rendered useless.  So the buddhist spy almost becomes machine like.  Perhaps this is another case for the advancement of the neurodiverse, or those people less emotionally driven to some extent, in favour of the ‘safety’ of the binary world.  In essence, the buddhist spy is simply a person who cannot be bought, and therefore cannot be compromised.  Could you be that person?

 

Publications

Institute for Economics & Peace. Global Terrorism Index 2019: Measuring the Impact of Terrorism, Sydney, November 2019. Available from: http://visionofhumanity.org/reports

The latest Global Terrorism Index data shows Incidents of far-right terrorism have been increasing in the West, particularly in Western Europe, North America, and Oceania and the three largest politically motivated terrorist attacks in the West in the last 50 years have been perpetuated by far-right extremists.

Recruitment

How to be honest and diplomatic at the same time.  Recruiting an MI6 employee is relativley easy compared to keeping an MI6 employee,  or indeed within any intelligence service....maybe with the exception of MOSSAD (they may well have their own less liberal incentive structures).  Think of an MI6 employee as a pilot in the Airforce.  The taxpayer spends millions on training them, they love the thought of flying and a good dogfight, serving their nation, they train for years, then end up flying charter aircraft for tourists to Tenerife every summer, retire with high blood pressure and wonder what the hell happened.  It's life  It will happen to most people in a hard profession.  Ideology is a luxury.  Having it, implies choice.  Not everyone has choice.  Joining for these reasons alone, will not keep you in MI6.  When ideology goes it has to be replaced with another luxury item.  Money? Ego? Power? Maybe even Revenge.  Cynical comments maybe, but quite possibly simply realistic ones.  Losing an MI6 employee of sufficient rank is a huge risk and one which has faced MI6 since its inception.  In todays climate, ideology is watered down when compared to the sheer extremes of the 1930's to 1950's.  So, people are satisfied with less demanding tempations...money.  The consequences however could be costly, so it must be a constant battle for HR in any service to constantly monitor their officers.  They cant be expected to monitor the agents/assets, because that is the job of the IO's.  So, they have to watch them instead...but at what cost?  The move in the US (and now UK) to Private Intelligence Agencies makes sense.  MI6 and CIA and others will adopt the "if we cant beat them join them" mentality.  All intelligence agencies know the weak spots and of course, money takes centre stage.  In reality, those who have more influence and have more information will be paid in some way...regardless.  What of the Head of a Desk in Brussels, or the Team Leader in Counter Intelligence who has been in the post for ten years?  Will their passion and drive for justice get them through the bad times?  Of course not.  They, as with any other person in any other 9-5 job will either stay put and accept their fate i.e bills, school fees, holidays, loved ones etc, or they will move laterally and for more money to a PIA.  One thing is certain, the factors that got you in the job in the first place will become much less influencial in later years.  The average field operative will spend more time in Airports, taxi's, and hotels than even the most seasoned Sales Rep, so whatever it is that drives those at the top of their game, is generally more complicated than a pay rise.  Getting to that position is hard and so for those in the middle ranks, the majority, then teamwork, camaraderie and a shared focus can often keep you going through the less than glamorous times when remembering why you did the job, is a more distant memory.  Not forgetting the draw of secrecy.  It is often described as a burden for most, but in reality, it does unite and bring people involved in the business much closer together.  It is a common trait found with  nearly all secret societies or organisations.  Even as children we bond by forming gangs and secret groups laden with codes and initiations (maybe more so for boys admittedly), and this is carried on throughout life.  A secret shared etc etc...So, there are positive elements to a job in such an organisation and as complex individuals not all our motivators and drivers can be simply categorised. 

 

So, SIS or Intelligence work for a government may or may not be for you, so consider the implications and facts carefully.  Look at basic human vulnerabilities.  History. Evidence.  The core drivers of humanity will not change regardless of which society you happen to have fallen into.  Remember, what MI6 stands for...MILITARY Intelligence.  This is an organisation which currently sells itself as any other modern day corporate entity with a new, slick PR image to boot.  But do not forget where the SIS started and what its foundations are.  It is a machine, based on a Military model, designed to protect our Nation and the interests of our citizens at home and abroad.  So, good intentions and strong ideological reasons are admirable traits and will no doubt get you through the door.  Once you are in however, perhaps it's best to leave them there, and focus on reality. 

Technology

The concept is not particularly new, but as with all concepts, it takes time for the technology to catch up.  In the 1960's the battle was on for Space.  Now, the battles are fought daily and in boardrooms and labs from East to West.  With DARPA on the one hand facilitating research into Neurprosthetics in the US, on the other the "Military-Civil" fusion in China works on Research through the China Defence Universities, a concern for most Intelligenvce Agencies, and undoubtedly doing the same.  Somewhere inbetween, the 'cash-strapped' Russians play catch-up.  Of course the UK has had its own waterered down version of DARPA through Innovate UK (sorry...but it is).  This  is set to change and has been on the cards for many years, but on this occassion it looks like Boris Johnson will be the one to unveil the new entity.  Whatever form it takes, it really needs to ensure the seals are tight on this one, as there are no room for leaks in todays Innovation Wars.The real challenge as we see it is in succesfully coordinating the vast number of current projects.  The 'visionaries' will have to harvest the key successes in a variety of fields and squeeze the very best out of each, to suit their purposes. 

For Intelligence Orgnisations such as the CIA or MI6, this will focus on linking communications technology, data in secure cloud based environments maybe using advanced blockchain tech, financial technology (to securely and 'discreetly' fund the research) and of course the science itself.  These do not even scratch the surface on what is involved.  The marketing, not forgetting that sometimes looking as though we are ahead of the game, can be just as important as actually being ahead. The thorough Legal processes involved such as patent protection (also including diversion), the Political ramifications in terms of developing succesful cross-border partnerships etc.  The list is almost endless so the task would daunting to even the most accomplished Project Manager (no wonder MI6 is expanding the sc-called 'Change Management' department.  The prize however is a huge 'leg-up' in the next war(s) where, as Mr Younger puts it, Espionage 4.0 will play a pivotal role.  How our friends the Amercians, and their sisters MI6 will meet this challenge, will be interesting indeed.

The UK Defense Secretary only just admitted, in a rather dramatic fashion, that the retreat from overseas entanglement by the US, now keeps him awake at night.  That is probably doubtful and is probably merely another political soundbite to ring loudly at the next funding drive.  It did however highlight the more serious point that the UK has been beholden to the US for far too long and especially in the air, and also in matters of intelligence.  So, as always when a poorer, less celebrity laden team comes to the pitch, the owners have to spend wisely and ensure that every pound spent is carefully considered if they (we) stand a chance.  We are in the same game now.  So, although it might be nice PR and propaganda to talk of increasing troops and increased spending on tanks and hardware etc., the real victory will depend on which technologies the UK can harness control of faster and more effectively than its foes.  To continue the sports analogy, the UK is simply not in a position to buy all the top strikers around today.  It has to look way beyond and look at toddlers with technique and take a considered gamble on what technology will prove the most valuable in the future.  One area we are particularly focused on at the moment are applications available from visual neuroprosthesis technology.  This technology is not the next step, and maybe not even going to be of any real benefit the step beyond that.  However, looking three steps ahead and this is where we are heading.  If the age old innovation/imitation battle between the Western inventors and their Chinese counterparts is anything to go by, then nothing much will change. The idea itself is no particularly recent.  In 2014 for example, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering carried our work for DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) on a project aimed at developing a wireless, implantable brain device that could help restore lost memory function in individuals who have suffered debilitating brain injuries.  So, aside from the more well known hearing aid implants, the work on other implants, to work on other functions, has been widespread in several private, government and academic science labs. What we are seeing now, is advancement in the practical application and success of neural implants which are having profoud effects on congitive functions.  Regular readers may recall our articles 18 months ago which focussed on another element i.e sub-cutaneous chip research, in which we also referenced the digitzed manipulation of the Amygdalla (the brains 'emotion' regulator) and the potential implications on patients with severe psychopathy.  It was and is representative of a pattern of growth which has developed for some time and brought us where we are now.

 

Bringing the focus back on the battle between competing countries however, for the UK, industrial espionage will continue to feature highly on its agenda both in terms of defender and aggressor.  The dilemma is, does the UK feed off the US (who seem to be distancing themselves in various ways) and leave the funding of this innovation in the hands of the US Government, or does it do it itself?  If it is the latter, then secrecy and IP protection (for what its worth) will be key factors in protecting their investment and also the security of the nation.  We certainly have the talent and know how and pedigree to compete against the likes of Huawei or, more pertinently, the companies already being groomed by the Chinese State to step in as Huawei 2.0, 3.0 and so on.  So the hope is that the current blip caused by a temporary 'off the hip' Trump administration, is very much just that, and plans will have been in place well before now to have planned for such events.  Although the politicians might have us believe there is trouble at the ranch, the financial ties and intelligence bonds go far beyond the 'hype'.  Trump and the US are unlikely to "fire" the UK just yet and for us, the canary in the mine is his hairdresser.  Whilst she has a job, we know we are safe.

So, what is a visual neuroprosthetic? The audio version is probably more well known as the Cochlear Implant i.e. a relay between the hearing aid and neural network in the Cochlear to aide hearing.  The same is the case with a visual neuroprosthetic. It is an artificial way (at the moment) of stimulating the visual pathways present in the eye and the visual sensations in the brain.  In doing so, it opens up the possibility of removing artificial devices such as lenses altogther. Rather than having a prosthetic implant to improve or restore vision, its purpose will be to enhance already perfect vision and add further information directly to the retina.  Scientists in The US and Netherlands have already experiemented with implanted chips to regulate the release of chemicals to the Amygdalla.  Sub-cutaneous chips have been available and tested now for many years in order to transmit information to externally and via cloud technology.  Combining visual neural systems with AI and IOT systems, will expedite intuitive and command driven action through prosthetics.

 

In terms of visual technology and where we stand with mainstream innovation at the moment, it is fairly well known what is on offer from Google and a growing fraternity of augmented reality/virtual reality firms and their glasses (called ‘smart glasses’).  They are cheaply priced and will probably feature well in the Christmas stockings of many teenage gamers.  The next step which firms such as Virtualenses   (the VL Project) and others are working on, are digital contact lenses.  The technological link from glasses to the third-generation wear of neurologically based enhancements.  The race is on for sure.  With digitized contact lenses, google enabled, recordable, cloud linked  and fully interactive already being tested, the race is on for the neurological link between man and machine in the form of a prosthetic.  The potential uses, even with just digital contact lenses or military grade glasses, is exceptional.  The advantage will be, as with all future moves in technological development for the intelligence community, in more accurate targeting.  Transforming 2D maps into 3D real world imagery containing millions of data points all converging and integrating in an intelligence/military ‘cloud’ to instantly disseminate visual information.  Those of you of a certain age will recall the war films where planners turned building plans into actual buildings in warehouses to train their soldiers and provide as much realism as possible.  The warehouse is gone now, and the maps are instantly relayed into screen fed information to the recipient.  When the neuroprosthetic technology comes online, it will remove the need altogether for both learning about the target as well as even having to physically be at the target.  The symbiosis between human, biological and physiological, and the cloud-based world will be seamless.  It may well represent the final steps before the AI journey reaches its singularity and when the games really begin.  But that’s another story.  For now, it is a race and a race the UK is going to have to compete in on its own.  The roots of the tree run deep and have many twists and turns.  Funding will continue to be an important element but will still only be one of the branches of the whole tree.  That has always been the case.  The fight against the money launderers will continue, or should we say, appear to continue to rage.  Overall however, the actual objective of ensuring the right funds hit the right accounts will be crucial in feeding the roots which will eventually allow the UK to blossom in full, with or without the US.

See a demonstration of how Visual Neuroprosthetics linked with IOT technology, will tranform even basic Intelligence Surveillance and Counter Surveillance operations for organisations like MI6. Click.

OSINT and HUMINT Software..

Why wait...start 'panning' now!

Open Source Intelligence and Human Intelligence are two data gathering sources the intelligence services use to find relevant information.  As the name implies, OSINT will consist of data sets normally found in sources freely available, and more specifically, on the web.  Connectivity and cross-analysis are also terms synonimous with these methods of intelligence gathering and the aim of the Intelligence Officer will be to join the dots to increase the probability of relationships existing and having greater statisitical significance. 

If you are considering a career in Intelligence, and specificlly in a role as an Data Analyst or Intelligence Officer for MI6, then start becoming familiar with OSINT software, for example Maltego 4.2.  It doesn't have to be that one in particular, but Paterva have designed a highly functional platform here to really drill down the data sets, and find maps and graphs that are easily interchangeable and allow useful visual cues as to the importance of different variables in an investigation.  So, our advice would be to START NOW.  You will need to do as much as you can to put yourself ahead, so speaking several languages and wanting to change the world may not simply be enough. Graduates are a fiercely competitive bunch and so if this is a career you are serious about, then start familiarising yourself with some of the basic tools.  Of course as you enter through the gates of the Vauxhall building (or Manchester or wherever you are stationed), you will of course eventually get access to the Aladdins cave of analysts treasure in the form of closed sources of intelligence.  MI6's own vault containing the really interesting data and tools for assessment.  But, baby steps, and no more so than starting with the wide array of intelligence gathering software already available on the market.  Take your time to research what you want to use and most importantly, what it is you want to get out of the software.

In essence, the goal should be to seemlessly bridge the gap between human sourced intelligence (HUMINT) and the mountains of data you have available.  If the future is data, and data really is more valuable now than gold, then think of using these sources and software as panning for gold.  It will sift away the dirt and useless material and leave you (hopefully) with something that will assist you and your fellow officers to achieve your goals. For the 'developers' out there, this is an ever expanding area, full of demand for new ways of improving the software available as processes and technologies change.  So, familiarity with what is available now on the open market (in essence the already 'old stuff') can do no harm.

The Iconic Vauxhall building is often referred to as the Ziggurat. An ancient architectural design from the region of Mesopotamia by early Babylonians.  Parts of an area more recently referred to as the middle east, covering Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.  Was the construction of the building designed in that way by Farrell in the nineties coincidentally emblematic of architerural history in that region of Babylon?  Or was there some thought given to this, knowing that references would be drawn to the Ziggurats origins of design?  Was this symbolism being used to link the mutlutude of Mesopotamian rivers, to the grand old River Thames?  Given the nature of the beast and a general feeling that events are on the whole, not coindicences, then perhaps it was the latter.  According to much more revered and esteemed experts the design has received some criticism and that its inspiration came from the Mayan or Aztec regions and may even have been inspired by buildings such as the Battersea Power Station.  But that wouldn’t be anything quite as romantic as this idea now would it?  Come on we can do better than that.  Think of the top as a shrine, not a platform for sacrifice... hmmm? We have a structure in the middle of our capital, arguably inspired by a design from the original “fertile crescent” and sitting on our very own fertile crescent, the Thames. What better nod to our apparently adversarial cultures than to plonk a clearly middle eastern, Babylonian inspired design in the heart of London.  Or is that one idealistic sentiment and overly romantic thought too far?  You decide.....

The 'tap on the shoulder works'.

Don't call us, we'll call you.

There are some very good, and more obvious reasons why the tap on the shoulder method of recruitment works. It has been used since the begiining and will continue to be used in the future.  It works.  Why?  Apart from the obvious i.e the avoidance of "walk in's" which therefore eliminates the prospects of a double agent entering the organisation, there are less obvious, more subtle (less Policitcally Correct) benefits.  We recently wrote about the "Buddhist Spy" and highlighted how removing temptation from an Intelligence (or Operational) Officer as well as an Agent, was often critical in aiding autonomy in the field, as well as trust.  The process of targeting an asset for recrutiment is of course completley different and conducted by entirely different people compared to those involved in the more 'vanilla' graduate recrutiment campaigns.  That said, there are some cross-overs.  There are also some serious deficiencies and limitations to the more exclusionary Oxbridge focussed pool of candidates.  In essence there is no one way.  There are lots of types needed to fit into an organisation like MI6 or MI5, and representatives from all walks of life and parts of society will be included.  The days of Kim Philby certainly highlighted how 6 can get caught with their draws down in Oxford and Cambridge, and indeed they did...in some cases literally.  Things probably have not changed that much and there will still be the ususal contingent of 'Russian Reps' walking the cobbled paths of Trinity.  It all depends on the job in hand.  A diplomat respresenting the FCO in Brussels has to know how to hold a fork after all, and shoot the breeze in a number of topics.  By the same token, an agent or operational officer might have precise local knowledge of negotiating a fair rate at a Warsaw brothel or bottle of Wyborowa, or how to lap dance for a visiting Easten dignitary.  All visions from a Le Carre novel of course, but you get the point.  It takes all sorts.  St Andrews and Oxford (generally) offer a middle class elite who might have the family treasure chest to fall back on, so short term financial gain may not be foremost in their minds.  They might be used to discipline and harsh treatment but no more so than the teenage street smart facebook manipulator who has lived a little.  So, what is the key draw to the tap on the shoulder?  The two things any Intelligence Service values very highly, Control and Trust.  It gives the organisation control of the process and is therefore more likley to facilitate trust.  In this writers view, paranoia and a deep basic level of mistrust are fundamental and desired attributes in this profession.  What people consider the 'norm' and healthy in everyday life, may have no place in the IC (or atleast certain parts of it).  Taking the topic 'off piste' slightly, some might say the best field agents are slightly mad (methodically mad) highly creative (preferably left handers), magnets for pressure, highly manipulative (exceptionally important and a characteristic too often critisised in people), alone, resourceful,possibly on the spectrum, and have a knack of seeing things others do not.  An intelligence officer on the other hand, straight from University is a different animal.  That person may not have drink Vodka out of punnets with a Ukrainian Assassin on farms in the Urals, but his job means he will probably find the right person who has.  Finding someone who has the skills to work in both roles would however be, apart from unusual, very useful (ahem). The word 'recruitment' means completely different things in different departments.  For example, there are a myriad of situations and scenarios when it comes to targeting and recruiting an asset, especially one where they are being asked to provide information about their own organisation or government.  There are literally dozens of methods used and it is highly experienced Intelligence Officers and their teams who are responsible for turning or manipulating an asset.  Essentially it is still recruitment, but a far cry from the milkrounds around University campuses.  Being in an operation can often require skills generally more associated with a con man or fraudster, especially where a cover is being maintained.  However, the point man (or woman) in this case has a huge supporting army of highly trained, professional staff back at Section 6.  Without each other, and without faith in each others skills, they simply would not be effective.  And don't think that these operatives and teams within the hierachy are simply focussed on terrorist organisations.  Certainly in the nineties, most of the larger City trading floors had one or two MI5 recruits on stand by.  The 'territorial army' equivalent of Intelligence staff if you will.  IN the eighites of course htere were the Unions, more recently officers can be found in numerous Government bodies such as HMRC or the Financial Conduct Authority.  The reach in endless and always meticulously planned.  Going back to the role of an IO, you will be required to demonstrate those skills also associated with typical management positions as well as desired traits such as lateral thinking, risk assessment or specific technical knowledge.  As a payroll employee you will have to jump through the HR hoops to a larger extent nowadays than pre-1996.  Everyone is accountable of course.  If you see a career in the business and maybe eventually within the private intelligence arena, then this will be the path for you.  Later in the 'Recruitment' sections we will highlight some well known and not so well known methods of recruting assets.  In our view the success and consistency of any intelligence service is fundamentally down to recruitment, specifically targeting and using human assets to deliver precise and valued intelligence.  If they cannot be found, or cannot be converted or recrutied, then the whole organisation will suffer.  So, being recrutied for a role in recrutiment within MI6 is an extremely important function.  And of course, exciting and rewarding beyond many conventional professions.

Technology

Replace “Human Being” with “Data Packet”.  You may well have heard the oft used phrase that ‘data is now as valuable as Gold’.  The question is how and if so, where is this heading?  We will come on to that a little later, but for now it would be useful to familiarize ourselves with some other key issues in the world of human data first. 

 

We have already written about the problem, and what will likely be, the increasing problem of Bio Spoofing or Bio Leaks.  In short, this is the stealing of a person’s biological identity in order to gain illegal access to money, data, facilities etc.  The most well-known forms are recognition systems which use retinal imagery, facial or fingerprint identity, and perhaps fewer known sources such as your veins, heartbeat speeds and the DNA from your blood.  All these systems are currently either being used or are in the testing stage.  The “Spoofer” is simply a person who will try to pass themselves off as you in order to assume your identity for various reason. Bio spoofing is a term which refers to slightly more specific forms of identity theft.  In our opinion there are only a very few, select forms of identity recognitions systems which can provide high levels of security, and this will be covered another time.  Put simply however, fingerprint, retinal imagery, voice and even blood identity recognition systems are vulnerable to some degree because ultimately, they are easy to steal.  It sounds crude but chopping off a finger or forcing someone to use ‘it’ or even an eyeball is not particularly demanding.  Although maybe not as common as some sci-fi films would have us believe.  Possible, nonetheless.  Our article on “Blood Leaks” also highlights the vulnerability there. The point of mentioning this, at this stage, is to highlight how data (personal information) security is not only important, it may well define the quality of data sold on the open market at some point.  To continue the Gold analogy, or indeed any other precious metal or substance, the value can be determined by grading it, which in turn is dependent on quality.  So, as Data becomes a tradable commodity, so will the methods used for grading its quality, hence its price.  Almost everything that is tradeable, has to have a value attributed to it.  Even in the traditional sense where stocks and shares are traded on the various stock markets.  Their medium to longer term value is, in the main, determined by what they refer to as “fundamental analysis”. A process of analyzing a company by looking at its accounts, management, profit and trading forecasts and other factors.  In doing so, the company is given a fair price, often calculated on its earnings, and called a yield which in turn has a ‘multiple’, allowing a level comparison against its peers.  Pretty mundane stuff maybe, but it is how systems have worked for centuries and therefore, it is highly likely it will continue to do so in the future.  So, in the new cyber world, the tradeable commodity will be you.  Or more precisely your data.  Who knows, maybe after the trading of your data becomes regulated or legalized, we will find analysts in some form who specialize in valuing niche areas of that market.  For example, the NASDAQ is a US market trading stocks in Technology only companies.  What if we have a “UKYME” or a UK Youth Market Exchange?  Let the imagination run wild if you like, but the concept is there.  A tradeable market in data focused on ages 16-24 for example.  There might be a Car Market or even the development of another form of “off exchange” transaction like Bitcoin which will attract illegal trading of data through 100% anonymous Blockchain (they should have cracked it by then).

 

So, these are just ideas of what may or may not happen.  Some however are really almost there already.  We only have to look at what has been in the press on the last few years with controversies surrounding Cambridge Analytica, and general fears over privacy brought to our attention by Messrs. Snowden and Assange.  Looking at how things stand now however, one can already map out good quality or bad quality data based on the various commonly used sources such from the FANG consortium (Facebook Amazon Netflix Google).  OK throw in Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for a better acronym (answers on a postcard please).  By constructing a detailed map of personal data flow, it is fairly easy to attribute value to the quality of the data, or in these cases, the quality of the algorithms.  So, as well as seeing the stocks of Google and Facebook trading on the exchanges, we could easily see their data traded (spun off) separately.   When it comes to the illegal market for trading the commodity of privacy then, in the same way to how heroin might be graded, the ‘cut’ of the data will be valued too (as well as demand and supply of course).  Will we have Data Quality Certificates in the near future?  It might seem unlikely because it would depend on acceptance by the public that this is ok.  In reality that is the easy part.  One only needs to look at the re-legalization of alcohol after prohibition or marijuana in Europe and some US states.  Liberalization is such that it will sit well alongside the factual arguments for legalization and regulation.  Once people accept that having their data traded underground is bad for them and society, it will be an easy sell to have them accept regulated data selling.  It is after all already happening anyway.  It is just that the conglomerates and governments have to be discreet and more covert in doing so.  That will not continue for much longer. There is one simply reason why exchanging private data will never stay private and remain a process carried out behind closed doors…. that reason is Money!  It is generally how nearly all markets of some description, over time, have started out.  By commoditizing data, giving it a grade, and therefore a price, market forces will determine fair values.  It will create a new source of liquidity that will be of use to all…especiallythe intelligence agencies.  We all know the best lies are the ones that are nearly all based on truth….so credibility is the intelligence agencies (and therefore the criminals) best friend. 

 

We have produced a comprehensive report on the methods for valuing data for the purposes of sale titled "The Human Stock Market - everyone has their price"..  For a free copy of the report please click here.

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