BONUSES are being used to tempt cyber spies not to leave their jobs at GCHQ.
A package of perks and incentives is being handed to technology experts at the Cheltenham base.
The Government has approved the payouts in an effort to stop staff leaving for jobs at firms such as Google and Microsoft.
It comes just weeks after GCHQ bosses were criticised by MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee for the massive cost of the high-tech consultants drafted in to tackle the growing threat of online terrorism.
Some consultants are already believed to be earning average salaries of £145,000, compared with many permanent staff who earn less than £25,000 a year.
The Cabinet Office said the bonuses to key staff had been approved to halt the number quitting for more tempting offers in the private sector.
A report said similar systems were already used in the United States for cyber spooks and British politicians were keen to copy it.
However, it did not specify what these bonuses would be.
And it insisted that GCHQ was also considering "other measures to attract and retain suitably skilled staff in greater numbers". The report by the Cabinet Office said: "Experienced internet specialists are highly prized by both Government and industry, and GCHQ recognises that it therefore needs to maintain its competitiveness in the marketplace."
Figures released to MPs on the Intelligence and Security Committee last month revealed 297 "time-hire" contractors were brought in last year to help run surveillance operations and thwart cyber attacks. Security bosses have refused to divulge details of why the contractors were used, but the cost came to thousands of pounds.
Politicians demanded to know why the fees were so high at a time when GCHQ had been ordered to accept an 11 per cent funding cut. They appointed an independent investigator to review the mammoth bill.
GCHQ director Iain Lobban told MPs in July last year he was struggling to recruit and retain key staff.
He admitted: "I can't compete with their salaries. Month-on-month, we are losing whizzes who will basically say, 'I'm sorry, I am going to take three times the salary'."
A spokesman for GCHQ said: "GCHQ takes controlling the cost of consultants and contractors very seriously. Accordingly the arrangements to ensure that we get best value for money are constantly reviewed."