The Science of Spying


what an interesting article. thinking of a Section day out...

hopefully we'll do better than this shady character :) although i must confess that my own dynamite-extraction skills have rusted slightly since we did it on the A3.

Last Updated: Thursday, 8 February 2007, 08:34 GMT

Happy spying without the spies
By Patrick Jackson
BBC News

Kids visiting the spying exhibition at London's Science Museum could come away just that little bit more savvy about the world of surveillance around them.

People reduced to electronic images - one of the interactive features

Saliva on a drink can, teeth-marks in an apple - these will be a few of your favourite things when you are a spy sifting rubbish bins for identity clues.

The Science of Spying, an interactive exhibition aimed at children aged 8-12 but with plenty of stuff for adults too, makes clear the job can be a grubby one.

"This is not about glamorising spies," says Sara Milne, chief executive officer of The Science Of, which put the exhibition together for the museum.

"What we're saying is that spying used to be the preserve of the security services but now actually everybody is spying on everybody."

With so much espionage going on, the BBC News website decided to recruit an agent of its own, and who better to take to the exhibition than a former British Military Intelligence officer?

The fun side

Between you, me and that spy rock in the glass case, Adrian Weale technically perished within minutes of entering the spy skills area, having slipped up on the dynamite-extraction test.

But we brought him back to interactive life and he went on to demonstrate mastery of logic on the code-breakers and nerves of steel in the face of the eerily flickering supercomputer - and even the fiendish wire loop game.

His refresher training completed, Adrian went off on a mission to infiltrate the treacherous interactive stands of Osteck - an exceedingly shadowy fictional bunch steeped in the black arts of commercial intelligence-gathering.

Finally, he emerged into the future of spying, an odd kind of world where agents hop forth on single robotic legs, or fool surveillance cameras by peeking into them in face-distorting, coloured balaclavas.

Adrian would be happy to take his own 10-year-old along to the exhibition, as a fun introduction to the technology of spying, but he has a warning for any budding James Bonds.

"I don't think the exhibition has much to say about the human side of espionage," he says.

"I'm talking about getting to know someone and persuading them that it's in their interests to tell you information.

"Sometimes it's about building a relationship of trust, sometimes it's about bribery, sometimes it's about blackmail - it runs across the gamut of human interaction."

And Harry Ferguson, a former MI6 officer who acted as an adviser for the exhibition, points out that the responsibilities are enormous for someone handling agents who routinely risk their lives.

Finger pads and loggers

Something else missed by Adrian, who is now a military historian, was artefacts from the history of espionage.

From fruit jelly to a handy, cunning shield from fingerprints

Even the spy rock is actually only a clever-looking copy of the one found in Moscow - if that itself was a spy rock at all, of course...

Other exhibits which are worth a look include a tiny, moth-like micro spy plane being developed, and finger-pad shields made out of sweets which prevent fingerprints being left.

Of all the gadgets, Anna Faherty, the exhibition's content manager, likes the humble keystroke logger most:

"You plug it in between a computer and keyboard and it can pick up everything that is typed - log-on password, credit card number, three-digit security number - and because it's hardware, anti-virus software won't detect it."

Mind you, the fewer gadgets the real-life agent uses the better, because discretion is everything, according to Adrian.

"Spying is all about not drawing attention to yourself - it is not about avoiding CCTV but being able to appear on it and not be noticed," he says.

Intelligence material

Harry Ferguson is at pains to stress that no British intelligence agency had a hand in the exhibition.

However, he personally would like to see his former profession benefiting.

"In my day, in the 1980s, if you took out the people who came from Oxford and Cambridge and the Army you were left with about three people," he told the BBC News website.

"Today we recruit from a whole background: men, women, people from ethnic minorities - disabled people make superb agents in many cases - and we want as many people as possible to apply to us.

"So one purpose of the exhibition is getting people thinking about these things because in 10 or 15 years' time, we may become a career option."

Good citizens

But for the exhibition's organisers, the aims are entertainment and education, with awareness of information security an important issue.

Why agents would need the robotic leg was not immediately clear

"Children aged 8-12 are surfing the internet every day so they need to be aware that they are going to leave a trail of what they do," Sara Milne told the BBC News website.

"You've got to be security-aware. We're saying: find out more about it and become a better-informed citizen."

If any kids do set your sights on a spying career, here is Adrian Weale's advice:
"The intelligence services are looking for well-educated, adaptable people who are without prejudices and can get on with people from any background.

"So the answer is stick to your schoolwork - and don't grow too tall!"

And here is a (cryptic) BBC tip for anyone visiting the exhibition: birds and mice tend to eat birdseed.

Science of Spying runs in London from 10 February until September 2007 and will then tour abroad. A twin exhibition opens in Indianapolis in March. Adrian Weale's latest book, SS: A new history, will be published shortly.

as for the advice - howayman, that's you fucked on both counts mate ;)


Yeah, he's desperately trying to drum up interest in it by other means! :lol:

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