The Security Forward Risk & Intelligence Forum’s quarterly meeting was held on 7 February at Z/Yen offices in the City. We had a good team turnout and a few new faces. The meeting started with a presentation from our Speaker in Residence, Lt Col Crispin Black entitled "Snakes and Ladders? The Rise and Fall of Great Powers - A Guide for Those on the Clapham Omnibus.” Crispin introduced a cautionary note about the rise and rise of China by questioning the comfortable western idea, derived from Hegel, that human history is an upwards path of liberty and personal fulfilment. Just as Hegel was developing this theory as a professor at the University of Jena, Napoleon was busy winning a battle nearby that kicked off the savage Franco-Prussian rivalry that laid waste to the European Continent twice in the Twentieth Century. Crispin said that one of the wild cards about the future of China is its attitude to military glory-perhaps the eighth deadly sin. Appeals to the popular hatred of the Japanese stemming from their actions in the 1930’s and 1940’s in China might one day run out of control or be appropriated by a member of the politburo with fewer scruples even than his colleagues. The talk was followed by some lively discussion, which is a trademark of Cripsin's presentations.
After our usual round-robin to identify key issues and concerns, our second speaker was Robert Ghanea-Hercock. Robert gave a talk entitled "Complexity and Security". Robert is a Chief Research Scientist in the British Telecommunications Security Research Practice and has many years of experience managing security research projects in the UK. He was theme leader for networks and security in he UK MOD Information Fusion Defence Technology Centre. Robert stressed the need for a resilient network and pointed out that hackers can be really creative people. He is also of the opinion that most people are bad at risk assessment and have a tendency to keep building the Maginot line. "We face unprecedented challenges in securing the information assets and intellectual property of our public and private organisations." He said that the cyber domain is where there are far more avenues for attack than there are ways to defend. This was a fascinating and absorbing talk, although worrying in its implications for the future. Robert managed to make a complex subject seem simple and clear, with numerous exciting images, and his talk generated quite a lot of discussion. After dinner we enjoyed some comments by Mike Sixsmith who has enjoyed a long and varied career in counter terrorism and intelligence and set up a security company in Dubai, as well as working in Angola and Zaire. His recently published novel is entitled Exit Plan, and looks at terrorism and the jihad. Everyone left with a signed copy - examinations at our next conclave in May.