Our Spring/Summer programme began with a social evening when everyone was able to have a chat and enjoy a quiz. This was followed by a trip to the Millenium Centre to see “The King and I” which every-one enjoyed.
Our first talk was given By Peter Cox and was entitled “My Life as a Spy”. Peter had been employed for 32 years at GCHQ and was able to give us a fascinating insight into the world of British Intelligence. Although still bound by the Official Secrets Act everything he told us is now in the public do-main so no rules were broken in the giving of this talk.
Peter began by explaining how British Intelligence is organised and what function the various bodies perform. The intelligence services are responsible for Homeland Security, Foreign policy, Military support, combating organised crime and global security and this is devolved to MI5, MI6 or GCHQ.
GCHQ is known as the 5-eyes community as information is gathered and shared by the UK, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Peter was recruited in 1980 primarily because he had studied Russian and joined the Technical Language Service but later worked in other departments.
To help us understand how the security services work we were played a tape concerning the shooting down of Flight MH17 and the various conversations taking place were explained so that the West knew from these recordings that the plane had been shot down by a Russian missile.
Peter then went on to describe some missions to explain how the various agencies cooperate in for example the disruption of drug shipments.
Finally Peter explained the vital importance of Global Communication networks and how GCHQ is able to watch every move as it has the power to intercept internet traffic on fibre optic systems.
This talk was fascinating and it is obviously true that Big Brother is watching you and that we are all being protected by our Secret Services who are working tirelessly to combat all manner of crimes.
In many ways our next talk led on from our previous speaker as this was about scams and how information can be gathered about us without us suspect-ing. The talk entitled “Friends Against Scams” was given by Greg Couch a Nat West Community Banker.
Greg introduced his talk by showing a video when we were introduced to the various scam techniques. The National Trading Standards Initiative has been set up to protect and prevent people from becoming the victim of scams.
After the video Greg showed us some facts and figures relating to scams. It was interesting to note that the 16 – 25 age group are currently being targeted more and that there are different scams for different age groups.
£5 to £10 billion is lost to the British economy through scams and only 5% are reported. Action Fraud is a new initiative set up by the police and this is a dedicated task force to clamp down on scammers.
Telephone scams are the most prolific and a system called Call Guardian which serves to block callers by dialling 1572 was explained.
The importance of having secure passwords to make on-line scams more difficult and a site called “howsecureismypassword.net “ can be used to see how long it would take someone to crack your existing passwords.
The important message that we were able to take home was that any suspected fraud activity should be reported and that any scam e-mails should be deleted after being reported.