The intelligence agencies are to recruit apprentice cyber spies in an attempt to harness the talents of the "Xbox generation".

Up to 100 18-year-olds will be given the chance to train for a career in the secret services countering the threat of cyber warfare and internet criminals.

The scheme, announced by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, is aimed predominantly at GCHQ – the electronic communications agency. However, some recruits will go on to work for MI5 and MI6.

The move marks a break with past practice when the agencies traditionally recruited mainly university graduates.