Richard Aldrich

Richard Aldrich is an award-winning spy writer, historian and presenter

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Leading cyber-security and intelligence expert
Award-winning spy writer, historian and presenter
Professional of International Security at University of Warwick
Author of numerous books including The Secret Royals (2021) and GCHQ: The Uncensored Story of Britain's Most Secret Intelligence Agency (2019)

Richard J. Aldrich is a leading cyber-security and intelligence expert, award-winning spy writer, historian and presenter. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Professor of International Security at the University of Warwick and helps to lead the Warwick Cyber Security GRP.

Richard’s field of expertise, the future of cyber-security, liberty and privacy, is one of the most pressing of today. His most recent research has focused on ‘Project Spaceman’, an examination of pioneering British efforts in computer security. He is the author of many books, including GCHQ: The Uncensored Story of Britain’s Most Secret Intelligence Agency (2019) and The Black Door: Spies, Secret Intelligence and British Prime Ministers (2016). He is the co-author of The Secret Royals (2021).

He is an experienced broadcaster and public speaker, appearing on The One Show, Newsnight, the Today Programme and Nightwaves. Together with Rory Cormac he has co-presented history documentaries for Channel 4, most recently The Queen and the Coup (2020). He has also featured in several Timewatch, Discovery, ZDF and PBS documentaries. He enjoys literary festivals and has been a regular at Edinburgh and Cheltenham.

Richard has assisted with national museum exhibitions related to intelligence and advises English Heritage on the Blue Plaques scheme in London.

Praise for The Secret Royals:

‘Monumental … Authoritative and highly readable’ The Times

‘Authoritative and Gripping!’ The Observer

‘Excellent … comprehensive and compelling’ The Guardian

‘Intricate, ingenious and determined …  Intelligent, fair-minded and a pleasure to read’ The TLS

Suggested Talks:

The End of Secrecy: One of the most dramatic changes of recent times has been a decline of secrecy, especially around business and government. While the ethical aspects of ‘whistle-blowing’ have received attention, few have attempted to explain the dynamics of the growing climate of exposure. This has much to do with the changing nature of information and ‘big data’. Moreover, many tech providers are at best agnostic about ‘security’ and the Internet itself provides the perfect medium for the anonymous degradation of secrets. Because the main driver is technology, Richard Aldrich suggests this trend is likely to accelerate, presenting managers with one of their biggest future challenges. But what are the solutions?

Churchill’s Secret Service School: Intelligence can do a prime minister’s dirty work. For more than a century, secret wars have been waged directly from Number 10, often deceiving friend and foe alike. Yet at the birth of the modern British secret service in 1909, prime ministers were strangers to the secret world – sometimes with disastrous consequences. During the Second World War, Winston Churchill brought intelligence into the centre of government. He provided a school of intelligence for future prime ministers, and its secret legacy has endured. Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, David Cameron and Theresa May all became great enthusiasts for spies and special forces. Although political leaders have often feigned ignorance about this ‘strange underworld’, its most controversial operations can be traced straight back to Number 10.

Spies and Cyber-Security: Who owns cyber-security? Most of our critical national infrastructure is in private hands and the last decade has seen government efforts to shift responsibility to the private sector. The new ecology of resilience consists of precarious state–private-citizen partnerships. However, it is unlikely that populations will accept this approach to risk-shifting when systems fail. We now realise any system that depends on information technology is vulnerable. So, what can we learn from the most advanced national security agencies like GCHQ?  Paradoxically, in an era when the Internet seems ubiquitous, the top spies now look to a mixture of analogue and manual systems – this offers a solution – but at what cost?

After Bletchley Park: GCHQ is the successor to the famous Bletchley Park wartime code-breaking organisation. Since the end of the Cold War, it has played a pivotal role in re-shaping Britain’s secret state. Still, we know little about it. Richard Aldrich explains how GCHQ evolved from a wartime code-breaking operation based in the Bedfordshire countryside, staffed by eccentric crossword puzzlers, into one of the world-leading espionage organisations. Today’s GCHQ struggles with some of the most difficult technical problems of our time. A leading force in efforts against militant terrorist organisations, it is also involved in fundamental Internet issues that will shape the future of British society for decades to come.

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