Security Forward Risk and Intelligence Forum’s Winter meeting was held at Z/Yen’s offices in the City of London. We had just over twenty people in attendance and there were quite a few new faces around the table, such as Nick Burnet from EDF, Bill Smith from BG Group, Chris Mackmurdo from My Private Embassy and Alistair Galloway from Frontier Horizons. The meeting started with a presentation from our guest speaker, Andrew Maguire of Bedahm Limited. Andrew has personally been responsible for the development and implementation of major infrastructure and development programmes and projects worldwide for a variety of clients in the public and private sectors in the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Far East. Andrew drew upon his deep experience of multicultural team building and fast-tracking to give a talk entitled “Security and Liability”. He pointed out the importance of local knowledge and understanding the context of the environments in which people are working. Without local knowledge it is so easy to misread situations and increase the security risk. Andrew gave various examples from North Africa, Sudan, Sharm El Sheikh (Aqaba) and elsewhere to illustrate the importance of understanding local conditions. As we adhere closely to The Chatham House Rule, Andrew was able to share some fascinating stories with the Group. The discussion became very interactive and the attendees shared some of their own knowledge and observations from their own experiences. As our attendees represent a cross section of security professionals from major corporates, academia and government , there was considerable value in the discussions.
After our usual round-robin to identify ‘in tray’ issues and concerns, our second speaker was our own ‘Speaker in Residence’, Lt Colonel Crispin Black, MBE, MPHIL. Crispin is an independent expert on terrorism, intelligence and security, as well as a novelist. Crispin’s presentation was crisply entitled "Robots have played a vital part in getting spacecraft to Mars safely. How will they be able to help us improve corporate security back here on earth." His presentation centred on likely developments in the field of robotics. The word 'robot' was first used to denote a fictional humanoid in a 1921 play R.U.R. by the Czech/Bohemian writer, Karel ?apek. For nearly half a century experts have been predicting a breakthrough in the agility and reliability of robots. With computer power doubling every two years, and 'Moore’s Law' looks set to hold for a few more years to come, we at last appear to be on the brink of a robot revolution changing our private and professional lives very soon. As ever, these developments will bring many benefits to mankind, in agriculture and medicine for instance. But there are risks, particularly if the technology is exploited without scruple by states, groups or individuals. This was a thought provoking talk and generated a lively discussion.
Following the meeting, we dined at Furniture Makers’ Hall. As per Security Forward tradition, we began with a Bohemian Cocktail inspired by Crispin's talk, referring to the Bohemian coiner of the word ‘robotnik’, and our dinner speaker was Edward Lucas, a senior editor at The Economist and an expert in energy, intelligence and cyber security issues. He has covered Central and Eastern Europe for more than twenty years and was Managing Editor of The Baltic Independent based in Tallinn in Estonia. Edward talked about his latest book “Cyber phobia: Identity, Trust, Security and the Internet”, signed copies of which were presented to everybody present. Earlier in the day there had been quite a lot of discussion about Russia, so we took advantage of Edward’s knowledge and spent some time discussing Russia and looking at his snazzy new Estonian digital ID.