NCA Specials, we're more like consultants. I am an official NCA officer so I have all same the opportunities that a full-time NCA officer does.
I get my 9 to 5 job which is a mixture of technical stuff and death by powerpoint and then I get to come here and do stuff that you'd never get to do anywhere outside of law enforcement. And you get a cool badge..!
You can't always get the skills or the people that you need and the Specials programme is ideal for that. It gives the opportunity for people to give back the experience they learn in the private sector.
The majority of my time is spent problem solving, whether it's for a project, an operation, they'll talk to me about it, I may offer suggestions. I give training sometimes, so I train the guys on open source intelligence techniques and tools.
A lot of what I do is helping the NCA build their intelligence capabilities around cyber. You start with a small piece of information and then you need to build a picture. So when you're talking about criminal infrastructure you may have an email address or a domain for a website, but you need to know who owns that website. You're taking the piece of information you have and trying to build some context around that to find out more information. From that you can liaise with other law enforcement agencies around the world to take down the bad guys.
The people here are awesome. The work you do is challenging and rewarding and it was nice to be able to do something for the community but in a much bigger scheme.
I enjoy it. It's fun, in it's own crazy, crazy way.
Open Source Intelligence - 'Adam'
What made you want to join the NCA Specials?
To be honest there wasn't a specific reason, I heard about the NCA looking for volunteers to become Specials and I thought that it would give me a chance to try and help, and at the same time develop myself as both an individual and an IT/Security professional.
What niche skills/expertise do you bring to the agency?
I've spent my entire career working in IT, mostly in infrastructure related roles (servers, networks that kind of thing). Strangely enough though the "niche" skill I bought to the agency is around an Open Source Intelligence program. I write custom code that enables it to be used for more specific functions and although I'm still getting my head around the way the agency works I hope it will help make a real difference in the long term.
How do you manage your work/life/volunteering balance?
I'm not sure I would say I manage it, it sort of just happens. My employer has kindly agreed to release me for a couple of days a month, so that really helps with feeling like part of the team. In between visits I tend to work on the projects I've been tasked with and then I showcase them on my visits to the offices. Luckily I also have a VERY understanding girlfriend, which helps when my head is buried in my laptop for a few hours in the evenings or at weekends.
What advice would you give prospective NCA Specials?
Don't be afraid to get involved or ask questions. There are a LOT of acronym's used in the agency and despite working in an industry that loves to make an acronym out of everything I struggle to keep up at times, so if in doubt ask. On my first visit to the office I was asked if I could write some code to do a specific task which I was readily able to assist with. That's the reason you want to become a NCA Special, to help, to share your knowledge, your skills and your passion. You can't do that without getting involved.
What do you enjoy most about working for the agency as an NCA Special?
I promise I haven't been forced/paid into saying this, but it's the people. From my first visit I was made to feel part of the team, not like I was a stranger invading their territory, they shared their time and more importantly their coffee with me and I look forward to my fortnightly visits for as much for the people, as I do the challenges that await me (and yes they will challenge you).