Reports from Previous Meetings

To give you a flavour of the talks we enjoy, here is a selection – all written by our redoubtable Publicity Officer, Dennis Bastin:

Safety First Online

Take Five! Not, this time, Dave Brubeck’s memorable 1950’s hit, but sound advice from the Club’s latest guest speaker. Laurie Cowie, Cyber Protection Officer with Devon and Cornwall Police, quickly ensured there was no complacency as she outlined the very worrying and rapidly escalating extent of cyber crime and the ease with which we can ail fall victims.

Quoting former Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller’s statement that “There were only two types of internet user – those who had been hacked, and those who one day will be hacked”, she explained that whereas traditional theft was often high risk/low reward, this new crime was just the opposite – with ever more sophisticated criminals often carrying out multiple, simultaneous, high yielding frauds from the relative safety of a base thousands of miles away. The authorities and the internet security companies are constantly playing catch up, whilst the public’s insatiable appetite for ever more wi-fi enabled devices only exacerbates the problem. Laura drew attention to the fact that the average UK household currently has over six such items. It’s not just the flavour of the month Alexa, but a whole range of so- called “smart” devices – including perhaps our coffee makers, fridge doors, washing machines, or even, now, some childrens’ toys. It’s difficult for the police to find the needle in a haystack when there are 18 million text messages and over 188 million emails a minute!

By now many of us were beginning to feel that our safest course was an early trip to Torr Quarry Recycling Centre with a car boot full of wi-fi devices, plus perhaps the kitchen sink as, no doubt, Amazon has plans for this too! However, for the benefit of those members still “under the influence” Laura set about explaining how best to minimise the dangers of falling foul of the fraudsters. She emphasised how essential it is that we always have strong passwords (a mixture of at least 15 characters, symbols, letters and numbers); that we have a different one for each account; we have good security software and always download the updates; that we never use any device to advertise the fact that we are away from home (save the messages and photos until we get back). We should refrain from inputting any personal information when using public “free wi-fi”, as we can never be sure who may be accessing this, and we should always know precisely what “Permissions” we have granted in any terms and conditions – did we, for instance, know that those for Instagram apparently give them full ownership and free use of every detail we input or download?

So much food for thought, so great a need to be careful. A riveting and much appreciated presentation, which Laura concluded by emphasising that if ever we felt an attempt was being made to persuade us to take some action we were not entirely confident about we should, before pressing any keys, switch off the device and follow Dave Brubeck’s advice to “Take Five!”

Hostage in the Desert
Charlie Chaplin – my time on his lap! Describing herself as “famously Incident prone”, it was perhaps inevitable that this month’s guest speaker, former BOAC air stewardess, Mandy Seiffert, had to land on the famous film star when she fell as their plane hit a severe air pocket. Oona, Charlie’s wife, skilfully turned it into a humorous episode, but Maureen O’Hara’s reaction when, on another occasion, Mandy tipped lamb chop, mint sauce et al onto her Christian Dior suit was very different!
With her talk titled “Hostage in the Desert” members guessed that not all Mandy’s recollections were going to be so light hearted – and so it soon proved, as she described the frightening days following the departure of her Bombay bound Vickers VC10 flight no.775 from London on 5th September 1970. AlI went well on the first leg, to the overnight stop in Beirut. An evening in the crew’s favourite watering hole, Harry’s Bar, left Mandy feeling much the worse for wear the following morning but, reluctant to call in sick, she reported for duty as usual, only to fairly quickly wish that she’d stayed in bed as, soon after take off, she was faced by three heavily armed hijackers and the news that there was a fourth one, in a suicide vest, somewhere amongst the passengers.
With a gun to Mandy’s head the pilot was forced to return to Beirut where a further four hijackers boarded, all eight being members of the Peoples’ Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
The crew were then instructed to fly to “Revolution Airstrip”, previously the RAF’s Dawson Field base, in Jordan, where Yasser Arafat briefly came aboard and from where the hijackers stated their demands – including the release of Leila Khaled, who was being held at Ealing police station on terrorist charges after being captured during one of two other hijacks by the group a couple of days earlier.
On Day 2, having made their demands, the hijackers freed all Indian and Arab passengers, and also allowed onto the plane representatives of the world’s press, in order to get publicity for their cause. The atmosphere however suddenly deteriorated when their demands were promptly rejected, but then, 24 hours later, when Prime Minister Ted Heath agreed to negotiation, a degree of calm was restored and all the women, children and the stewardesses were released. Mandy was flown back to London, to be met by her parents, who, having been touring the UK on holiday, had been unaware of the drama until being alerted to their daughter’s plight by her photograph on the front page of the national papers.
Underlining her “incident prone” reputation, Mandy concluded her presentation by mentioning that BOAC awarded each of the crew a free “anywhere you like” holiday. She chose to return to Beirut and, on once again
visiting Harry’s Bar, ran into one of the hijackers – this time he bought her a drink! After all this excitement, and such a gripping tale (which ended with the blowing up of the VC10 and two other of the hijacked planes) it is perhaps not surprising that staycations have suddenly become the holiday of choice amongst members for this summer