What Does ‘Cyber’ Mean

The word cyber is generally believed to originate from the Greek verb κυβερεω (kybereo)—to steer, to guide, to control. At the end of the 1940s Norbert Wiener (1894–1964), an American mathematician, began to use the word cybernetics to describe computerized control systems. According to Wiener, cybernetics deals with sciences that address the control of machines and living organisms through communication and feedback. Pursuant to the cybernetic paradigm, information sharing and manipulation are used in controlling biological, physical and chemical systems. Cybernetics only applies to machine-like systems in which the functioning of the system and the end result can be mathematically modelled and determined, or at least predicted. The cybernetic system is a closed system, exchanging neither energy nor matter with its environment. (Porter 1969; Ståhle 2004) The prefix cyber is often seen in conjunction with computers and robots. William Gibson, a science-fiction novelist, coined the term cyberspace in his novel Neuromancer (Gibson 1984). Science-fiction literature and movies portray the Gibsonian cyberspace, or matrix, as a global, computerised information network in which the data are coded in a three-dimensional, multi-coloured form. Users enter cyberspace via a computer interface, whereafter they can ‘fly’ through cyberspace as avatars or explore urban areas by entering the buildings depicted by the data. Cyber, as a concept, can be perceived through the following conceptual model (Kuusisto 2012):

  • Cyber world: the presence of human post-modern existence on earth.
  • Cyber space: a dynamic artificial state formed by bits
  • Cyber domain: a precisely delineated domain controlled by somebody,
  • Cyber ecosystem: systems of a cyber-community and its environment
  • Cyber environment: constructed surroundings that provide the setting for human cyber activity and where the people, institutions and physical systems with whom they interact,
  • Cyber culture: the entirety of the mental and physical cyberspace-related achievements of a community or of all of humankind.

Many countries are defining what they mean by cyber world or cyber security in their national strategy documents. The common theme from all of these varying definitions, however, is that cyber security is fundamental to both protecting government secrets and enabling national defence, in addition to protecting the critical infrastructures that permeate and drive the 21st century global economy.


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