British spy agency GCHQ is releasing code publicly on GitHub

Secretive British security organisation GCHQ has taken the unusual step of releasing open source code online for free to code-sharing website GitHub.

A user on GitHub named “Government Communications Headquarters” posted a public project on the site on Monday. GCHQ confirmed to Business Insider that the account belonged to the organisation.

GitHub is a tool used by individuals and technology companies to release code online so that other people can use and improve it.

The project uploaded by GCHQ is known as “Gaffer.” It’s a kind of database useful for storing different kinds of data. GCHQ told The Register that it has already started work on Gaffer2.

It’s pretty unusual for one of the UK’s most secretive organisations to release computer code online for free. After all, GCHQ is known for monitoring communications, not releasing fancy database types on GitHub. But maybe releasing open source software is part of GCHQ’s push toward becoming a friendlier organisation to try to attract new talent.

GCHQ recruitment ads SkitchBusiness Insider/James CookThe GCHQ pavement graffiti in Shoreditch.

GCHQ recently used pavement ads in Shoreditch to try to recruit developers from East London’s trendy technology startup community. Many developers like to work on open source projects, so perhaps the move to release code on GitHub is a way to attract more talent to the organisation.

The UK is hiring close to 2,000 new staff members at security organisations MI5, MI6, and GCHQ. That’s going to be a 15% rise in the total number of security workers.

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