Five questions answered on the collapse of Jessops

Thousands of jobs at risk.

Another high street store admits defeat and announces it is to go into administration putting thousands of jobs at risk. We answer five questions on Jessops’ decision to close.

What reason has Jessops given for its planned closure?

The high street camera store says it is being forced into closure after leading camera makers, such as Canon and Nikon, have tightened the terms on which they sell products to the company following a downturn in the market.

Unless Jessops can whip up a deal with suppliers the company said closure by the end of the week would be inevitable.

Companies that supply Jessop are said to be concerned about the state of the electrical sector after the collapse of Comet last year, plus Jessops failed to increase its 2012 sales from the previous year.

How many jobs will be sacrificed in Jessops closure? 

In its 192 stores Jessops employs about 2,000 staff who will all lose their jobs if stores close.

However, those who are members of the Jessops’ pension scheme are said to be protected because it was adopted by the Government’s Pension Protection Fund (PPF) in 2009.

Who else will be a loser?

HSBC who co-own the company because the bank stands to lose £30 that Jessops owes HSBC. In total Jessops is estimated to have debts of £60m, including £30m of trade debt and the HSBC debt.

HSBC tried to strike a deal with suppliers to ease Jessops’ financial burden but to no avail.

What has Jessops’ spokespeople said about the company’s closure?

Rob Hunt, joint administrator and partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers who have been appointed as administrator of Jessops, told the BBC: "Our most pressing task is to review the company's financial position and hold discussions with its principal stakeholders to see if the business can be preserved.

"Trading in the stores is hoped to continue today but is critically dependent on these ongoing discussions. However, in the current economic climate it is inevitable that there will be store closures."

It’s not a good start to 2013, who could be next?

It’s hard to say, but online entertainment retailer succumbed on Wednesday; the second biggest casualty of 2013. The retailer will make more than 200 redundancies.

Although there is no suggestion of closure, Marks and Spencers reported a 1.8 per cent drop in like for like trading figures in the 13 weeks to 29 December on the same period a year earlier.

Last year casualties included Comet, Clinton Cards, JJB Sports and Game Group.

Another high street store admits defeat. Photograph: Getty Images

Heidi Vella is a features writer for

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Can Trident be hacked?

A former defence secretary has warned that Trident is vulnerable to cyber attacks. Is it?

What if, in the event of a destructive nuclear war, the prime minister goes to press the red button and it just doesn't work? 

This was the question raised by Des Browne, a former defence secretary, in an interview witht the Guardian this week. His argument, based on a report from the defence science board of the US Department of Defense, is that the UK's Trident nuclear weapons could be vulnerable to cyberattacks, and therefore rendered useless if hacked. 

Browne called for an "end-to-end" assessment of the system's cybersecurity: 

 The government ... have an obligation to assure parliament that all of the systems of the nuclear deterrent have been assessed end-to-end against cyber attacks to understand possible weak spots and that those weak spots are protected against a high-tier cyber threat. If they are unable to do that then there is no guarantee that we will have a reliable deterrent or the prime minister will be able to use this system when he needs to reach for it.

Is he right? Should we really be worried about Trident's potential cyber weaknesses?

Tangled webs 

The first, crucial thing to note is that Trident is not connected to the "internet" we use every day. Sure, it's connected to the main Ministry of Defence network, but this operates totally independently of the network that you visit Facebook through. In cyber-security terms, this means the network is "air-gapped" - it's isolated from other systems that could be less secure. 

In our minds, Trident is old and needs replacing (the submarines began patrolling in the 1990s), but any strike would be ordered and co-ordinated from Northwood, a military bunker 100m underground which would use the same modern networks as the rest of the MoD. Trident is basically as secure as the rest of the MoD. 

What the MoD said

I asked the Ministry of Defence for a statement on Trident's security, and while it obviously can't offer much information about how it all actually works, a spokesperson confirmed that the system is air-gapped and added: 

We wouldn't comment on the detail of our security arrangements for the nuclear deterrent but we can and do safeguard it from all threats including cyber.

What security experts said

Security experts agree that an air-gapped system tends to be more secure than one connected to the internet. Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at F-secure, told Infosecurity magazine that while some hackers have been able to "jump" air-gaps using code, this would cause "interference" at most and a major attack of this kind is still "a long way off". 

Franklin Miller, a former White House defence policy offer, told the Guardian that the original report cited by Browne was actually formulated in response to suggestions that some US defence networks should be connected to the internet. In that case, it actually represents an argument in favour of the type of air-gapped system used by the MoD. 

So... can it be hacked?

The answer is really that any system could be hacked, but a specialised, independent defence network is very, very unlikely to be. If a successful hack did happen, it would likely affect all aspects of defence, not just Trident. That doesn't mean that every effort shouldn't be made to make sure the MoD is using the most secure system possible, but it also means that scaremongering in the context of other, unrelated cybersecurity scares is a little unjustified. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.