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The Secret History of Computers and Spies

Posted on 09/07/2015

Gordon Corera, Security Correspondent for the BBC, launched his new book, Intercept: The Secret History of Computers and Spies, at King’s College London on Tuesday 7 July.

The third event of the ‘Book Club’, run by the Strand Group, the Policy Institute at King’s signature seminar series, was attended by an impressive range of guests from the worlds of cybersecurity, intelligence and defence, including the nephew of legendary code breaker and pioneering computer scientist Alan Turing. The event was chaired by Dr Jon Davis, Director of Partnerships and the Strand Group at the Policy Institute at King’s.

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Gordon Corera spoke about the insight he gained from writing Intercept, and answered questions on the history and future of cybersecurity.  He pointed out the importance of history in informing the debates of today, an underlying principle for both the Strand Group and Corera’s new book.

In a history that reached back to the bulk interception of letters from the front in World War I, Corera recalled how it was once said that it was ‘a waste of money to even try’ and break the Enigma code. Commenting on how times have changed since then, Corera cited the cryptographer Robert Morris’s three golden rules for computer security:

  • Do not own a computer
  • If you do, do not turn it on
  • If you do, don’t use it

Corera also noted the implications of today’s ‘explosion’ of data, which means that its security matters more for all of us. He predicted that privacy issues are going to become increasingly more important as this continues.

Speaking about the future, Corera foresaw the encryption of data becoming a defining public policy issue. He also suggested that a present, and future, cause of concern is that if you collect large pools data, external forces will attempt to steal them – as the United States government have already experienced.

Gordon Corera is currently a security correspondent for the BBC, having joined the Corporation in 1997. Initially working as a researcher, Corera became a reporter for The World Tonight, Newsnight and was a foreign reporter for Today. He became security correspondent in 2004.

Other books he has published include The Art of Betrayal - Life and Death in the British Secret Service about the MI6, and Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A.Q. Khan Network, about Abdul Qadeer Khan and Pakistan's nuclear programme.

‘Intercept: The Secret History of Computers and Spies’ can be purchased here.

 

For further information about King's visit our 'King's in Brief' page.

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