The Security Forward Risk and Intelligence Forum held its quarterly meeting at the offices of the Z/Yen Group, near Guildhall, on Wednesday 30 April.
The meeting was introduced by the chairman Keith Holland, and there was the traditional discussion of “top of the in-trays” security issues.
The first presentation was by Speaker-in-Residence, Crispin Black, “International borders – the invention of tradition”. The central thrust of Colonel Black’s argument was that many international borders are comparatively new – not just the redrawing of Europe’s borders after the 1939-1945 War against Germany. Further, traditionally borders have been regarded as fluid. Indeed, territories have been exchanged peacefully between unfriendly nations without resort to violence – the handing over by Great Britain in 1890 of the North Sea Island Helgoland to Germany, in exchange for territorial concessions in Southern Africa, being the most striking example. Given current tensions in Eastern Europe, he recommended a more selective and relaxed approach by Western policy makers to some border disputes. After all, if Schrodinger’s Cat can be two things at once – so can borders. Where a particular border is not crucial to the West – we shouldn’t get involved. If a particular border is deemed crucial to Western security, we should defend it.
Simon Dukes, Chief Executive of CIFAS, the UK’s Fraud Prevention Service, then gave a presentation on “Cyber: Threats and Opportunities”, setting out in chilling detail the extent of online fraud and other financial scams. This sector of criminal activity is growing exponentially and imposing vast unseen costs on individuals and the private sector. Most striking was the sheer guile and imagination of some of the more sophisticated stings. Slightly depressing was the level of gullibility in some areas of the population, and the ruthless targeting by some criminals of the vulnerable, particularly the elderly. He also outlined how CIFAS can help the fightback by keeping detailed records of fraudulent individuals, including those who have not been convicted of any crime – available to any of its members.
Finally, over dinner, Gordon Corrigan, former Gurkha officer and distinguished military historian, gave a talk on his book about the Great War – “Mud, Blood and Poppycock”. In a direct and compelling presentation he dispelled a number of myths about the First World War, arguing convincingly that what might be called ‘The Blackadder view’ – the war was pointless and allied commanders detached and useless - was a construct of the 1930s; and was certainly never the view of most of the British soldiers who took the field between 1914 and 1918. One astonishing statistic drove the point home – 74 per cent of British soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 13 November 1916) survived in one piece. Everyone was delighted to receive a copy of Gordon’s book, signed naturally.