UK’s Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) will become operational on March 10 next year, according to the government. The centre, which has the role of fending off cyber attacks against the country’s computer infrastructure, will initially have a staff of nineteen.

The Cyber Security Operations Centre was established, along with the Cabinet Office of Cyber Security, as part of UK’s new National Cyber Security Strategy launched back in June. The centre will operate in the same building as the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) in Cheltenham.

The centre’s role will be to monitor UK’s cyberspace and defend it from cyber attacks, as well as fight back when necessary. The Parliamentary Under-secretary for Security and Counter-terrorism Lord Alan West suggested during an interview for BBC that the government plans to recruit young former hackers for the job. “You need youngsters who are deep into this stuff… If they have been slightly naughty boys, very often they really enjoy stopping other naughty boys,” Lord West said.

This comment did not fall well with some information security professionals, who didn’t agree with the proposed approach. “It is entirely unacceptable that our security services and our government are broadcasting the message that the only qualification necessary for a job in MI5 is being a hacker (one bad enough to have got caught),” Rik Ferguson, solutions architect at antivirus vendor Trend Micro, commented at the time. “People who have been found to have broken the law should not be allowed to profit from their misdeeds especially by way of an employment offer in the very field of their criminal activities,” he stressed.

In September, The Daily Express reported that that no less than fifty former hackers, many of who being teenagers, had already been vetted and hired to work at the CSOC. The newspaper said that all of them had allegedly signed the Official Secrets Act, preventing them from discussing aspects of their job, even with immediate family.

However, information released by Baroness Crawley, Government Whip for the Labour Party in the House of Lords, suggests that the story was highly exaggerated. According to The Register, a recent parliamentary interpellation revealed that Cyber Security Operations Centre would have an initial staff of only nineteen and would be operational on 10 March 2010

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