ASIO launches strange puzzles, looks to bolster ranks of spies


Australia’s secret service launches a series of strange puzzles anyone can try to solve as the clandestine agency looks to bolster its ranks: So do you have what it takes to be a spy?

  • ASIO has launched its biggest ever recruitment drive to hire new agents 
  • To help see if you are suited, the agency has released a series of puzzles 
  • Agency is not only looking for mathematical geniuses, there are lot of roles 

The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, better known as ASIO, is on its biggest ever recruitment drive as it seeks to bolster its numbers amid increased security threats.

If you’ve always fancied yourself as an international man or woman of mystery, the first step towards becoming an agent is a series of very tricky puzzles that anyone can try and solve. 

But ASIO has reassured potential recruits not to be put off if they find some of the puzzles are just too hard – the agency is not only looking for mathematical geniuses.

‘Rather than applying for specific roles, applicants are applying to join the mission,’ a spokeswoman said..

A woman is pictured gathering intelligence. ASIO has just launched its biggest ever recruitment drive

A woman is pictured gathering intelligence. ASIO has just launched its biggest ever recruitment drive 

People who get to the interview stage will be asked to talk about their lives, to see where they might fit in the organisation, across dozens of areas.  

‘Applicants will tell us about their skills and experiences and we will help them find their fit,’ the spokeswoman woman told the Herald Sun.

‘From finance and facilities to psychology and strategy – all our teams contribute to our mission.

Agent Ally (not her real name) joined the clandestine agency after a friend was caught up in a terrorist incident abroad. 

That made her think about how she could help protect Australians, so she applied for an ASIO position and was successful. 

‘It is not until you start that you find out what the job really is. But it is not as scary as it looks. It is really interesting and a cool place to work.’

Though her closest family members know what she does for a living, for the rest of the world she has a cover story. 

‘It can be tricky at times, but you get a lot of guidance,’ Ally said. 

If you can figure out the meaning behind this puzzle (pictured) it could be the first step in a career with ASIO

If you can figure out the meaning behind this puzzle (pictured) it could be the first step in a career with ASIO

She said there are occasional ‘double takes’ in corridors when people unexpectedly come across someone they know.

‘I ran into my old primary school teacher and neither of us knew the other one was working at ASIO,’ she said. 

Ally said she is proud of the work ASIO does, including recently catching a foreign spy after starting with very little information, and stopping a terrorist attack.

Can you decode this ASIO puzzle? Don't worry if you can't, there are lots of different jobs available in the clandestine agency

Can you decode this ASIO puzzle? Don’t worry if you can’t, there are lots of different jobs available in the clandestine agency

ASIO’s website makes it clears you don’t have to imagine yourself as a James Bond-type character to want to work there. 

‘A lot of people think ASIO employees are a bit like the spies you see in movies –wearing trench coats and dark glasses – but really, we’re regular people.

‘We have all kinds of backgrounds, from teachers, nurses and musicians to sports people, computer programmers and even fire fighters.’

If you fancy a career in ASIO, check out the code-breaking puzzles here https://www.asio.gov.au/resources/puzzles.

AUSTRALIA’S ‘HONEYTRAP’ SECURITY THREAT 

In February 2022, ASIO warned of a new ‘honeytrap’ threat posed by dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble and Hinge.

Since the start of the pandemic, ASIO has been tracking increased suspicious use of the apps by foreign agents to gather intelligence and make new contacts.

‘These spies are adept at using the internet for their recruitment efforts,’ ASIO Director-General of Security Mike Burgess revealed.

‘My message for any potential victims on these sites is a familiar one: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.’

That was echoed by Senator James Paterson, the then-Chair of the Federal Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security.

 ‘If you’re a six and they’re a 10 – it might not be your looks that they’ve been charmed by; it might be your access to classified information,’ he warned.

‘They might try and navigate you off one of those platforms onto another platform – an encrypted platform, for example – where they will try and over time get information out of you.’ 

As well as honeytraps, the ASIO chief warned some spies may try to lure people in with fake job offers and ‘seemingly innocuous approaches’. 

He added:  ‘This then progresses to direct messaging on different, encrypted platforms, or in-person meetings, before a recruitment pitch is made.’

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