Northern Rocked: What price systems failure? (27 November 2007)

Northern Rock was the first run on a bank in UK for about 20 years. It didn’t fail because the bank of England stepped in to avert it – the last failure was Overend, Gurney and Company which collapsed in 1866. But it was the first run since on-line consumer banking. Who was to blame and what role did the IT systems, website and TV play alongside the irresponsible lending and securitization practices at the bank? Should the FSA and the Bank of England have moved sooner and faster – the evidence was clear enough to cause the share price to fall for 6 months and surely they knew more than the stockmarket. How much are the systems in the USA to blame? How did we manage to import it? What has the cost been and who is paying? How will it all get sorted out? What changes need to be made and does IT have a role in reducing the risks or does it make it more likely to happen again?

Dr Andrew Hilton, OBE

Andrew Hilton is Director of the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation (CSFI), a non-profit think-tank since 1993 supported by 65 City institutions, that looks at the future of the global financial system. The CSFI has held nearly 800 round-tables on issues of pressing interest in the financial services sector including EMU, the single market, the Internet, small business finance, high-tech start-ups, microfinance and regulation, which in turn have led to three books and over 80 reports. Andrew has worked for the World Bank, run a financial advisory service for the Financial Times in New York and is a board member of Observatoire de la Finance in Geneva. Andrew Hilton has a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, an MBA from Wharton and an MA from New College, Oxford.

The Impact of Computing in the Past and the Future on the Security Community (25 September 2007)

James Bond may have had all the bad women but “Q” collected all the good stories. Modern computing and communications both have their origins in Intelligence (Alan Turing, Tommy Flowers and their colleagues at Bletchley Park and Dollis Hill). Modern Intelligence often has its origins in Computing.

Sir Richard Dearlove

Sir Richard has been the Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, since 2004 and sits on a number of Boards including Chairman of Ascot Underwriting at Lloyds. Formerly, Sir Richard was the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, more commonly known as MI6. He joined SIS in 1966, having graduated from Queens’ College Cambridge. Postings have included Nairobi, Prague, Paris, Geneva and Washington. In 1993, he became Director of Personnel and Administration. He succeeded Sir David Spedding as ‘C’ in September 1999. He was awarded the OBE in 1984 and KCMG in 2001. He is also a trustee of Kent School, Connecticut, Honorary Fellow of Queens’ College Cambridge, a member of the International Advisory Board of AIG and senior Adviser to the Monitor Group. Sir Richard is in a unique position to explore this symbiotic (mutually exploitative, in every sense of the word) relationship and we look set for a world class evening.

Cryptography: Fact, fiction and Da Vinci (20 June 2006)

Cryptography has never been as much in the news as in recent years. Books and films on Enigma and Bletchley -some more accurate than others -reached a large audience. But this has been dwarfed by the Da Vinci phenomenon. Incidentally, the book’s heroine, Sophie Neveu, studied cryptography at Royal Holloway – presumably under Professor Fred Piper, though this is not in the book.

At an every-day level, the security of Internet shopping, banking, and cash machines is based, at least in part, on cryptography. In fact this applies to the whole edifice of domestic and international money transmission, banking, finance and trade. At stake is not only the privacy and authenticity of transactions but-and this is at least as important – also the identity of the transacting parties.

How do you really know who it is at the other end of an Internet transaction? And then there is cryptography and the State! Cryptography is in the front-line in the battle against terrorism. But how do we balance the need of governments to be able to read our communications and our rights, perhaps needs, to keep them confidential by using encryption? So what is the state of cryptography? Can the good guys always stay one step ahead of the bad guys? Why is there still so much fraud and identity theft? Is the availability of almost limitless computing power to geeks, crooks and spooks alike a threat? And what about quantum computing? And quantum cryptography? Is the one a threat and the other a solution? And, crucially, what was it like to teach Sophie Neveu?. And where is the Holy Grail? Professor Fred Piper will speak on all, some or none of these issues. But be assured -whatever he says, it will be interesting and it will be ‘in clear’.

Professor Fed Piper

Prof Fred Piper, seen recently on TV in connection with the Da Vinci Code, is a man of letters, not least those after his name – BSc PhD(London) CEng CMath FIEE ARCS DIC and FIMA. He is widely acknowledged as a leading global expert in the field of security and cryptography. He has been a Professor of Mathematics at Royal Holloway, University of London since 1975. In 1985 he formed a company, Codes & Ciphers Ltd., which offers consultancy advice in all aspects of information security and which has advised over 50 companies including a number of financial institutions and major industrial companies in the UK, Europe and USA. He has lectured world-wide on information security and has published numerous papers and books. He has served on a number of DTI groups and is currently a member of the Foresight Crime Prevention Panel: IT, Electronics and Communications Task Force, a member of the DTI Management of Information for Fraud Control, Security and Privacy Link Programme, and a member of the Scientific Council of the Smith Institute. He is a member of the Board of Trustees for Bletchley Park.

In 2002 he was awarded an IMA gold medal for “services to mathematics” and received an honorary CISSP for “leadership in Information Security”. In 2003 he received an honorary CISM for “globally recognised leadership” and “contribution to the Information Security Profession”. He has spoken on radio, including in the Melvyn Bragg ‘In our Time’ programme, and appeared on TV.

Censorship and the Internet: The Internet is too important to be hamstrung by morality (17 January 2006)

Those who created the Internet envisaged global any-to-any communications free of censorship and control, whether by government or business. The majority of the population in nations like the UK, is on-line, but so too is a similar proportion of criminals and subversives. Politicians and pressures groups around the world are therefore demanding that “something” be done to protect the vulnerable and to prevent content of which they disapprove being available to all and sundry over the Internet. The solutions currently on offer range from “Cartels Masquerading as Anarchy” through “Brussels Fudge” to “Big Brother: your window on the world is their window into your mind”. So who should lead the way forward: “the moral majority”, “those who know best”, “the market”, “democratic values” or “no-one”?

Derek Wyatt, MP

Derek was first elected to the House of Commons for the new constituency of Sittingbourne and Sheppey in May 1997. He works almost exclusively on email – Radio5Live found that he was “The fastest emailer in the West” – the quickest MP to respond to constituents emails. On arriving at Westminster he formed the All Party Internet Group and has been its chairman ever since working on revising the Computer Misuse Act as well as initiating work on the Creative Commons. He is a trustee of Citizens Online a charity established to explore the social and cultural impact of the Internet on society and also Founder, the Oxford Internet Institute.

John Carr, Internet consultant.

John graduated in law from the LSE in 1976 but by the early 1990s he had shifted into computer consultancy. As John’s children began using the Internet he was drawn to working on solutions to help keep all children safe. He is now Chair of the UK’s Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety and Director of the NCH Children & Technology Unit. He is helping develop a UK Centre for Child Protection Online and is a member of the Home Secretary’s Internet Task Force, advising on technical and policy issues affecting child safety online, including the mobile environment. John’s publications include “A Parent’s Guide to the Internet”, “The Role of the Internet in the Commission of Crime”, “Child Pornography, Child Abuse and the Internet”.

Public Sector Efficiency: Poacher turned Gamekeeper (24 May 2005)

Is ‘Yes Minister’ fictional comedy or reality TV? What are the real differences between the public and private sectors? Can success ever be the norm in public sector IT projects? Based on his 4 years working at the heart of Government as the first Chief Executive of the Office of Government Commerce and then as Head of the Review of Public Sector Efficiency Peter will seek to answer these questions and provoke a lively debate.

Sir Peter Gershon

Peter’s 35 year career has spanned both the private and public sectors since he graduated in Mathematics at Cambridge University in 1969. After starting in the computer industry (1969-1986) he worked in the telecommunications industry (1987-1994) and then became the main board director in GEC plc in 1994 with responsibility for its defence business. Following the sale of GEC’s defence business to BAE SYSTEMS in late 1999 he joined the Civil Service in April 2000 as the first Chief Executive of the Office of Government Commerce which reformed over £13 billion p.a. of public procurement achieving £1.6 billion saving by March03. In August 2003 Peter lead a major review of efficiency across the whole UK Public Sector which by July 2004 had secured agreement to over £20 billion of savings in 07/08. Peter has now returned to the private sector as Chairman of Symbian Ltd. and Chairman of Premier Farnell plc. His other current appointments include heading a review of Ministerial and Royal Air Travel, membership of the Cabinet Secretary’s Civil Service Reform Programme Board, non-executive directorship of HM Treasury, and membership of the councils of the Royal Academy of Engineering and Imperial College.

Peter is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institution of Electrical Engineers, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply and the Royal Aeronautical Society; a Companion of the Chartered Management Institute; a member of the British Computer Society and a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. He has an Honorary Doctorate in Technology from Kingston University. He was awarded the CBE in 2000 for services to industry and knighted in 2004 for his work on public procurement.

China: Opportunity or Threat (18 April 2005)

China is having a rapidly growing impact on the rest of the world with economic, ecologic, social and political implications. Whether you grasp the opportunities and manage the threats or just observe you will all be affected. Our three speakers, who have all been observing and involved with China over the last few decades, will examine: Tricia will explain that China has the Internet at the heart of everything, including its ICT strategy. The results of this are now emerging for all to see. Chris will show you that Chinese culture is different so if you want to do business learn the facts and avoid the myths. Richard will speak on the evolution of the Chinese government’s controls on media and real-time content over the past 20 years, and on the growing links between the UK and China and the opportunities that these present.

Tricia Drakes

Tricia Drakes’ areas of interest and expertise include: the Internet (infrastructure, “Next Generation Internet” (IPv6), Wireless, and applications), Financial Services (UK & global), Digital Media, the City of London and China – and youth. She is Chairman ISOC England, The Internet Society’s ( UK Chapter, a trustee of YouthNet UK, TheSite – targetting 15-25 year olds and “Do-it” – the National Volunteering Database. She is a board member (2003/4) of ICANN ( and is a Non-executive director of The University of Surrey Seed Fund Limited. Tricia started her career as a Certified Accountant (FCCA) with Unilever and Shell, was Controller & Company Secretary Italian International Bank Plc (1972-1987) and founded and ran IBIS (International Banking Information Systems Limited) – 1987-1996. She is Past Master (1999) The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.

Chris West

Chris West first visited China in 1985, the year the People’s Republic first opened to solo ‘backpack’ travellers. The result of this Journey to the Middle Kingdom. He has been a frequent visitor since then, to research a series of crime novels featuring Beijing-based investigator Wang Anzhuang, the most recent of this was The Third Messiah. Last year, Chris co-wrote Myths about Doing Business in China with Harold Chee, a lecturer at Ashridge Business School. This book debunks a number of western assumptions about Chinese culture, and explains to readers what they need to know to make real progress in the Chinese market.

Richard Pascoe

Richard Pascoe is Director of The University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, which focuses on policy-relevant, evidence-based research on China. Richard has spent 16 years in all living and working in the Greater China region and his perspectives on China span four decades. A Chinese Studies graduate from Leeds, he first studied in China in the 1970s during the Maoist “Cultural Revolution”. He was a Reuters correspondent in Beijing in early 1980s and managed the Reuters information business in China in the late 1990s. Before joining Nottingham University last June, he worked on China business with the British government’s trade and investment arm UKTI. During his career with Reuters, Richard ran real-time information businesses successively in Indonesia, Taiwan, China and Japan before returning to the UK in 2002.

Quantum Cryptography (21 February 2005)

Are you aware of the implications of quantum physics for the future of computing and information processing? We have seen three revolutions: Computing itself, PCs, the Internet – is this the fourth? Over seventy organizations are working on various aspects of QIP and a consensus is growing that quantum physics will play a major role in the future of computing. We need to understand the basic concepts and keep up to date with the implications.

Professor Tony Hey will give an overview of the science of quantum physics and its significance both to quantum computing and quantum cryptography. He is an excellent speaker and has the knack of putting over high science very clearly. He has developed some clever demonstrations of quantum phenomena, which will make everything clear.

He is also a good friend of the RTC: when members of the RTC proposed the Quantum Computing in Europe Pathfinder Project to the European Commission he supported us strongly and gave the keynote speech to the Helsinki International Conference. Recently he has given Members of the Club much useful advice and support to secure the contracts from the DTI to raise awareness of Quantum Cryptography in the UK.

We were delighted to see he received the CBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

Professor Tony Hey CBE

Professor Tony Hey has worked in the field of parallel and distributed computing since the early 1980’s. He was instrumental in the development of the MPI message-passing standard and in the Genesis Distributed Memory Parallel Benchmark suite. In 1991, he founded the Southampton Parallel Applications Centre that has played a leading technology transfer role in Europe and the UK in collaborative industrial projects. His personal research interests are concerned with performance engineering for Grid applications but he also retains an interest in experimental explorations of quantum computing and quantum information theory. Tony Hey is also the author of two popular science books: ‘The Quantum Universe’ and ‘Einstein’s Mirror’. Most recently he edited the ‘Feynman Lectures on Computation’ for publication, and a companion volume entitled ‘Feynman and Computation’.

Tony Hey is Professor of Computation at the University of Southampton and Head of the Department of Electronics and Computer Science. In March 31st 2001, he was seconded to the EPSRC and DTI as Director of the UK’s Core e-Science Programme. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the British Computer Society, the Institution of Electrical Engineers and the Institution of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. Professor Hey is European editor of the journal ‘Concurrency and Computation: Practice and Experience’ and is on the organising committee of many international conferences.