Think you’ve got the chops to be a spy? John Burns reveals a way to apply in the New York Times:
According to traffic on Twitter, Facebook and scores of other Web sites, at least 50 people have solved the puzzle since it was posted unobtrusively last month. To all but practiced cryptographers, it looks baffling: a rectangular display of 160 letters and numbers, grouped in twos in blue against a black background, under the overline, “Can you crack it?” Beneath it, a digital clock ticks down the seconds left until the competition closes.
The agency that posted the puzzle at www.canyoucrackit.co.uk is one of the oldest, and, espionage experts say, most successful eavesdropping organizations anywhere, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, located in a vast doughnut-shaped building surrounded by huge satellite dishes in parkland near Cheltenham, 120 miles west of London.
Helped by a hand-in-glove relationship with its American counterpart, the National Security Agency, which provides access to data downloaded from a pervasive network of American spy satellites, GCHQ can hack into phone calls, e-mails and computers virtually anywhere in the world.