INTERCEPT by Gordon Corera

INTERCEPT by Gordon Corera

a review by Philip Ingram MBE

It is very rare I pick up a book and go WOW, especially when it is one talking about cyber security, digits and packets, computers and of course spying.

INTERCEPT by Gordon Corera, the Security Correspondent for BBC News is in my humble opinion a masterpiece and essential reading for anyone involved in cyber security, information security, computer networks, intelligence, information and spying.  It is the background and history that provides an easily readable foundation on which all of those disciplines are built from. In essence, again in my humble opinion as a cyber commentator and ex spook, if you haven’t read this book you can’t do your job properly.

Gordon Corera starts on 5thAugust 1914 where he introduces Superintendent Bordeaux and his two messages giving him a mission onboard a ship called The Alert and the first offensive action of World War 1, and that action was around information. Read the book for the rest of the story. 

If you think you know your computer history and didn’t realise that in 1929 the UK War Office had a Computer Class 2 for the ‘calculation of projectiles in artillery fire’, then your computer history is missing something. That computer was called Kathleen.

Jump forward to the 1940’s and the importance of Dollis Hill in London, in the fight to crack the Enigma code is explained. He mentions Bletchley Park and elsewhere.

Without actually mentioning it Corera gives a detailed history of how the “Special Relationship” with the USA was formed and how over the years it has developed, strengthened and become interdependent. He more than hints at why it will always be there in the modern internet age. 

What really struck me was when he quickly came into the modern age, events, dates, people I recognise and can remember reading about or listening to. 1988 was only a couple of years ago? Right?  But what is extremely well explained is how systems were designed with no security and how foreign powers late to the game managed to leapfrog themselves into networks.

He explains in detail about “The Cell” in Banbury in Oxfordshire and it is clear he has visited the List X facility, working at high levels of classification, created by BT, overseen by GCHQ behind multiple access controls and paid for by Huawei. If you didn’t know the detail yet had an opinion on Huawei around current political statements, then your opinion is not properly informed.  

INTERCEPT was first published in 2015, before the current Huawei spat started.  Examination of how nation states approach intelligence and the technologies supplied from national manufacturers to the international market is at the core of many of the developments discussed throughout the book.

Having just finished reading INTERCEPT, I have started it again, this time with highlighter in hand as it is full of fantastic quotes and examples illustrating every aspect of the modern cyber challenge.  INTERCEPT is a must for the Cyber and spying community. I can’t recommend it more highly. 

Philip Ingram MBE is a former British Military Intelligence Officer who has walked the corridors of “The Doughnut” and been involved in many cases where the expertise gained through some of the examples in this book have helped enormously. 

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