Why we need to redefine the term ‘cyber’

“It’s time we shift the way we think about security and lock away any outdated perceptions of ‘cyber’. Security is the key to opening doors in today’s interconnected world.”

Paul Maxwell, Director at Stratia Cyber

The term cyber has always been an adjective. Merely a word to describe something that exists in what we once marvelled at as ‘cyberspace’. Why, then, do we so often slip into the habit of referring to cyber security as ‘cyber’? Should we close the door on it altogether in favour of the more accurate and all-encompassing noun ‘security’, or should this debate remained very much unlocked? With a strong inkling this has more to do with than our human tendency to abbreviate, we talked to Paul Maxwell, Director at Stratia Cyber to explore this in more depth. 

The best thing since sliced bread?

“We’re in this interconnected world now,” says Paul. “We are far more connected than we have ever been, living in a time when we’re increasingly reliant on devices and the internet.” A kind of reliance that expands by the day. 

Reflecting on how digitalization and connectivity are so entangled in every part of daily life, Paul reminds us that there’s no longer any ‘boundary’ at which the cyber world stops. 

“Without the online world, the Western world would collapse – you’ve got logistic problems just moving food from A to B.

“It’s like removing electricity from the world, it’s so integrated now. It’s a technological advance akin to running water.”

Internet use has doubled since the pandemic

The shift shows no sign of stopping: by the end of 2022, annual total internet use will increase by about 50% from 2020 levels, reaching 4.8 zettabytes, according to the World Bank.

This means we need to reshape our thinking around cyber security more specifically. 

“The cyber security landscape is a world where everybody within it has their own responsibilities. As an individual, you have your own responsibilities – and as a company, you need to protect your shareholders’ investment by ensuring that your cyber security is fit for purpose. 

“Security in cyberspace has become more like hygiene than ever: it’s no longer non-essential, as it might have been perceived in the past.”

Lock and key approach no longer fit for purpose

Coming from a background in military computer network defence, Paul admits that private companies, at first, ‘never quite got it,’ when it came to security and securing their online environment – but while more companies do so now, some are still failing to understand the new hyperconnected world they live and operate in. 

Many are still too inclined to see cyber security as little more than a cost – rather than something that is part and parcel of doing business nowadays where the ‘cyber-verse’ meets reality with every step we take.

Paul Maxwell, Director, Stratia Cyber

“And sure, it makes security far more of a challenge: it’s very difficult to look after and control data, when there are so many more places it could be residing – in the cloud, in a SaaS product, in a personal device.”

The machine and the human being

Paul emphasises that in the new cyber world, security is in the hands of our people. 

“When I’m working on raising awareness within companies around cyber security, I always draw parallels with people’s personal lives to make them understand how to reduce risk within the company.”

People are an organisation’s ‘strongest asset’ when it comes to cyber security, and Paul also speaks on behalf of his team of Directors when he says  that processes and controls ‘only go so far’.

“Ultimately, it’s down to the individual.” Paul continues, “You need to make sure people are engaged and take accountability. Ditching the term ‘cyber’ could prove an effective way to support broader understanding that security must factor in – whatever we’re doing online.” 

The people holding the data have become far more important, agrees Lou, Managing Director at Stratia Cyber. 

Lou, “Just looking at my desk, there are at least 20 things that would allow individuals to get into my system: it’s become part of life. Today’s target areas are huge and three dimensional.”

“It’s simple, really. Security is about the person AND the machine: the information owners are the people, and they represent the most value. Security is no longer about the endpoint or the data centre – it’s about the whole thing: the machine and the person and everything in between.”

What do you think? Is the term ‘cyber’ a hindrance in today’s ultra-connected world? We’ll revisit the discussion in part two – coming soon.