World’s best spies need eyes and ears of all

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UK firms are world leaders in the design and development of security and surveillance equipment.

Last week, I was invited on a working trip to Holland to see an exhibition of the latest technology for the fields of crime and policing, cyber security and counter terrorism, all developed by UK businesses

The capability of the equipment on show was absolutely incredible and would have even amazed ‘Q’ from a James Bond film. It was like a toy shop for spies, with minute hidden cameras, vehicle tracking devices and covert communication systems. I could have played for hours with the silent drill used for covertly inserting bugs/cameras into buildings, had someone not impatiently taken it from me!

The item which impressed me the most was a piece of analytical software. It is an intelligence search tool which can very quickly scan 10,000s of documents and recordings for key words and phrases and link them together.

It is particularly useful for counter terrorism enquiries, especially as it understands any language. It even identified and made links with some Russian words which had been deliberately spelt incorrectly, in an attempt to confuse it.

It was pleasing to see these British designed security products are admired and sought after throughout the world. However, there was a clear recognition by the various security experts present that the use of technology has its limitations.

Whilst technology can be used to track and monitor the activity of known terrorists, it has limited use in the identification of those in the early stages of radicalisation.

The prevention of radicalisation is the biggest security challenge that this country faces. The warnings of Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick of the Metropolitan Police must be heeded, young British Muslims who are travelling to war torn countries to fight are a significant threat to this country when they return.

Technology can do little to prevent radicalisation as that is a battle of hearts, minds, culture and the perversion of religion. I don’t have the answer to this issue and I am not sure anybody does. However, I am positive this subject needs more of an airing and a much greater public commitment from within the communities most at risk.

The prevention of radicalisation is an area in which the UK needs to become world leaders and very quickly.