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British MoD vacancy posting blows the lid on ‘irregular’ hacker branch with links to ‘unique and specialised military unit’

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The UK Ministry of Defence disclosed the existence of its shadowy hacker outfit in a job ad that sought an “extraordinary talented electronics engineer” to deliver “prototype solutions” to a “unique and specialised military unit.”

In the since-removed vacancy listing, posted on its recruitment site, the defence ministry (MoD) was looking to recruit an “intrepid problem solver” as a Computer Network Operations (CNO) Exploit engineer for MAB5 – an “irregular and unrecognisable” unit that is involved in “communications, electronics and technical surveillance.”

Noting that solutions are “required in weeks,” the advert states that the exploit engineer will need to have the “skills of a hacker” and an “inquisitive and probing mindset.”

A “multi-faceted” skillset is apparently crucial as well since the ideal candidate is also expected to be a “consultant,” “inventor,” “designer,” “fabricator,” “report writer” and “analyst” (among other technical roles) all rolled into one.

According to the ad, around 80% of the workforce in MAB5’s “un-military-like flat structure” are civil servants and the MoD’s “most talented scientists and engineers.” However, the unit is commanded by a Lieutenant Colonel rank officer – with the email address and phone number of a Lt. Col. Simon Perrett published as the point of contact for applicants.

The £33,000-per-year position was first reported-on by UK military observer site ‘Secret Bases,’ which noted that the vacancy’s Hereford location and pincode pointed to the Pontrilas Army Training Area (PATA) that is apparently “used exclusively” by the Special Air Service (SAS).

The site also added that the MAB acronym is apparently “simply a coy reference to ‘MoD A Block,’ which in turn is a codename for use by those ‘in the know’ when wishing to refer to UK Special Forces (UKSF) operations.” It stated that the “actual physical MoD A Block is at the SAS Regents Park Barracks in Albany Street, Central London and is UKSF HQ.”

In another link to the special force unit, the site notes that Lt. Col. Perrett’s listed phone number is for the SAS Barracks at the Stirling Lines army garrison in Credenhill, Herefordshire. As well, the officer is apparently from the Royal Corps of Signals and was awarded an MBE in 2013.

The engineers come up with “rapid technical delivery solutions, advice and guidance” to help “specialist users” gain an “operational advantage” over unidentified adversaries – said to be “increasingly ‘wideranging’ and technically advanced.”

The job requires high-level “developed vetting” security clearance since the unit works alongside the spy agency GCHQ and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL), among others. It is open only to UK nationals with electronics engineering qualifications at a OFQUAL 6 level, or an undergraduate degree in engineering or science.

Among the technical skills that will be assessed during the selection process are identifying “threats to government computer networks” and developing counter-measures to “ensure we are safe,” and listing the advice and options to improve “professional, official and family security” for high-ranking government officials who have been targeted for “technical exploitation.”

While it did not mention whether previous hacking experience was necessary, the posting did say that candidates had to write a 1,000-word ‘Statement of Suitability’ essay as part of their application that goes into any “experience relevant to the role.”

The vacancy has been removed from the website – possibly since the application window closed on August 11, but a cached copy is available online as of writing.

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