Cyber

Now, where did that word come from? My earliest recollection is the scariest adversary of Dr Who. The cybermen hit the small screen back in 1966. This fiction of an amalgam of machine and human is particularly scary. This was the fabled monster that drove young children to hide behind the sofa. The BBC hasn’t given-up on this character. Somehow, these fictional metal-men are almost certainly going to retrun to run amok and devastate humanity.

Patrick Stewart being assimilated by the Borg is a mega dramatic cliff-hanger. The Cylons[1] obliterating the colonies sent humanity on a runaway across the endless expanse of space. The indestructible killing machine of the Terminator was a huge box office success. There’s a recuring theme. In the popular imagination the combination of machine and human is thought of as fundamental threat. The enemy is the machine that transforms human mind and body into a single-minded demon intent on mischief or destruction.

By this reckoning you might think that “cyber security” was a Robocop like police force committed to routing out bad cyborgs. Yet, that’s nothing like the common usage of the term. There’s a certain threat, and it does involve digital systems and humans. However, in this century they are not yet[2] wandering around doing unpleasant things to all and sundry.

Strangely enough the term “cybernetics” has been around for a long-time. It’s not about robots. It came into being before modern digital systems and the silicon revolution were kicked-off. In part, cyber was coined as a way of expressing the almost magical qualities of feedback processes. It was wide-ranging, in that this term described natural as well as mechanical systems. In the words’ origins there was nothing sinister or chilling implied.

In 2023, “cyber security” is how we reduce the risk of cyber-attack[3]. Not a great description but let’s just say the notion is dealing with a recognised threats in digital systems.

This wasn’t something that was commonplace until the Personal Computer (PC), its software and the INTERNET connected billions of people. The normal human limitations that constrained our sphere of influence have been extended across the globe. Now, bad actors intentionally doing bad things can be based anywhere on the planet.

Since they are human actors, they are mighty creative and inventive. These people are a constant threat, like the Borg[4] that adapts and modifies what they do so as to counter any actions to defeat them. Our defence can’t be as that of the Battleship Galactica, disconnection, we are going to have to find another way. Unlike some threats there’s little chance this one will ever go away.


[1] https://ew.com/gallery/battlestar-galactica-12-things-you-need-know-about-cylons/

[2] https://www.bostondynamics.com/

[3] https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/section/about-ncsc/what-is-cyber-security

[4] https://intl.startrek.com/database_article/borg