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I must admit I was a bit concerned about the #CyberFest event on 23 September. It was the first time that I had ever tried to run a debate online. I have been to a few in real life but never online and the thought of moving all those people in and out of presenter mode and keeping the conversation going got to me. Fortunately I had Sophie from Beaconhouse Events to keep me straight behind the scenes.

I was also concerned about whether those debating the motion would turn up and found myself late in the evening writing arguments both for and against the motion, just in case. You can never be too organized.

I was also a bit concerned about the motion. We settled on ‘Cyber crime is a catalyst for change in the banking sector’ having originally thought about ‘Cyber crime is good for the banking sector’ but with all the problems going on across the region’s universities I thought it might be a bit too provocative. It was supposed to get the juices flowing.

You can see I was a bit concerned.

I needn’t have been. The debate turned out to be one of the most interesting events that I have ever been involved in.

We started off with a discussion with Paul Lancaster about Newcastle Startup Week and where that is going in the future as well as the North East Initiative on Business Ethics and its work across the region. If ever there was a question of business ethics, cyber crime is it.

The debate then followed with Tom Johnson – Ethical Hacker & Social Engineer and Hydeam Sulton – Head of VAT and Indirect Tax, MHA Tait Walker for the motion and Rozib Mirza – Security Business Partner, RBS and Karen Elliott – Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor (FinTech), Newcastle University Business School against the motion. Each had five minutes to put their case across and I had to be a bit ruthless in our times keeping.

At half time i had a conversation with Dawn Dunn from Dynamo North East about its emerging FinTech cluster and then it was back to the debate for another five minutes each to rebuke, rebuff or respond to what they had heard. I wrapped all this up with a panel discussion about what an interesting topic this is. 

The dates were fantastic and really challenged our pre-set impressions of what cybercrime and cybersecurity is. Watch out for the video which will be on YouTube shortly and you will be able to see for yourself.

By the way, it fell to Dawn to decide which side won the debate. It was those in favour of the motion.

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