MI6 is set to hire another 1,000 staffers because of the internet, apparently.
According to the BBC, the foreign-focused spooks are set to boost their numbers by 40 per cent, "from 2,500 staff to a little under 3,500."
The agency, which is formally known as the Secret Intelligence Service, argues that the increase in personnel has been "made necessary by the development of the internet and technology."
Last year, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that an extra 1,900 jobs would be made available for Blighty's intelligence agencies. At the time it was understood that the vast majority of these jobs would be directed towards Cheltenham; however, GCHQ has been struggling to hire recruits recently.
Instead, it seems techie roles are being sought at the more glamorous location of MI6, which is keen to embrace the challenges brought on by the digital era.
Alex Younger, MI6's current chief, told Washington DC on Tuesday: "The information revolution fundamentally changes our operating environment. In five years' time there will be two sorts of intelligence services – those that understand this fact and have prospered, and those that don't and haven't. And I'm determined that MI6 will be in the former category."
According to the BBC, among the tech troubling the spooks is facial recognition technology, which has now "reached the point where images – for example of an intelligence officer travelling under an assumed identity – can be easily reverse searched to find pictures posted online under their real identity, before they joined MI6 or the CIA."
The use of facial recognition technology to identify spooks has been a hot topic since the assassination of Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, allegedly a co-founder of Hamas' military wing, by operatives of Israeli spook agency Mossad. Facial images of Al-Mabhouh's assassins were caught on CCTV at the Al Bustan Rotana hotel in Dubai, where he had been killed.
Several of the Mossad operatives had travelled to Dubai under cloned British passports, which belonged to real people who had visited or were living in Israel. While it no longer seems possible to completely falsify an identity, sophisticated use of facial recognition technology may make it impossible to even use a false identity.
The obvious answer is new faces, but with no mention of cosmetic surgeon hires at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office yet, the extra thousand staffers will have to suffice. ®