Knowing your audience

can you crack it? online recruitment of hacktivsts for cyber-spy careersI just came across a cool site called Can You Crack It? According to this ABC News article, it was set up by a British intelligence agency that’s looking to recruit web-savvy cyber-spies, and this was how they decided to find some. It’s a tough cyber code they’re asking people to crack/solve. Their thinking is that in this digital age, with highly intelligent hackers opting to make it big online instead of enrolling in university, they’re apt to find some young people to join them who would otherwise be wreaking havoc and making the agency’s life miserable. Turn them to the good side of the Force before they get too mired in the dark side. They should recruit Lisbeth Salander, too.

I thought this ¬†strategy was pretty brilliant. It’s a real good example of knowing who you’re trying to talk to, what their demographics and psychographics are, what motivates them, and how to best reach and engage them. It’s the sort of stuff I’m telling my clients all the time. I hope it’s successful for them. I think it’d be great to get a big team of potential hacktivists working for good instead of evil, especially since I’ve been working on promotional materials for the upcoming RSA Conference 2012 in San Francisco.

As for the code itself, it’s a doozy. I love trying to solve puzzles like this but it’s way beyond my ability to crack. After studying it for about five minutes, I declared myself highly unqualified for a career as a cyber-spy. The only inkling of a possible starting point I could come up with is that the code uses the numbers 0 through 9 and the letters a through f. That’s 10 numbers and six letters, totaling 16 characters. And there are 16 columns of coded pairs. So maybe each column represents a letter. Although the “keyword” field only holds 15 characters. I’m thinking the first one is blank, mirroring the site name in the upper left corner of the page. I’m either brilliant, or I’m grasping at straws that aren’t even really there. Where is Tom Hanks when you need him?

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