​Is the term 'cyber' - Misleading? Useful? Scaremongering? And what should we say instead of 'cyber security'?

Cyber security has appeared in our lexicon and used everyday, what was once referred to as IT Security now is a bigger and more feared phenomena.

Let’s start by confirming we have a common definition of the word cyber security? In the Oxford Dictionary this is: “The state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data, or the measures taken to achieve this”

It is interesting that the folks at Oxford go on to add that some people have argued that the threat to cyber security has been somewhat inflated.”

Origins of ‘Cyber’

Surprising though the word ‘Cyber’, was first coined by Norbert Wiener in his book[1], dating all the way back to 1948. Actually it is a prefix that was used to describe a person as part of the computer age.

Later William Gibson in a Sci-Fi novel in 1982[2], conjured up the term Cyberspace. This was referring to the electronic world that we now call the internet.

Now with that heritage, no wonder one would be concerned that this might be misleading.

The ‘e’ Era moving into Digital Era

We then experienced the eCommerce era and everything was ‘e’. There was eMarketing, eBusiness, eChannels. But we all know that the dot com crash meant that there was a ‘negative’ connotation of this era.

Not surprisingly we are now in the so-called Digital era and ‘digital’ has also entered our lexicon. Clearly it feels like a much overused word.

There is now much talk about digital assets, digital footprint etc. One can be skeptical that we are now often referring to technology, and what was once referred to as IT is now Digital. However by inference Digital means fast, agile and iterative. Not the slow, waterfall and clunky aspects associated with IT.

Read more: ​Microsoft builds custom Windows 10 sanctioned by Chinese government

Cyber Everything

In the world of Digital where everything is bright and shiny, we have to have an opposite. The yin and yang if you like and to that end we have ‘Cyber’ everything and just look at the list of words below:

  • Cyberterroism
  • Cyberwar
  • Cyberbullying
  • Cyberwar
  • Cyberattack
  • Cybercrime
  • Cyberhacking

Note that all are negative and the antithesis of the benefits that we hope to gain from a Digital experience.

One may argue that Cyber security looks and feels like Scaremongering. However the stakes are much higher in the Digital world, where assets are more and more digitized.

Cyber Security Hype?

This word has the attention of management boards around the world and this has been due to the high profile breaches that have occurred. Such events are actually not new, the difference is that we now are all personally more connected.

Understandably there is greater hype as there is also greater threat. I believe based on current trends that whatever you think of the word being misleading, there are real risks that need to be monitored.

So if not Cyber Security, should we revert to calling this IT Security? Well based on the below definition that may be too narrow. Perhaps I can propose that “Cyber Security” morphs into ‘Digital & IT Security’. It is more accurate, but certainly doesn’t sound as colourful or threatening.

Information security is designed to protect the confidentiality, integrity and availability of computer system data from those with malicious intentions. [3]

Digital security includes the tools you use to secure your identity, assets and technology in the online and mobile world. [4]



[1] Cybernetics or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine

[2] ‘Burning Chrome’

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_security

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_security

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