Does the word cyber put people off?

Image thanks to the Scouts.

I’ve been involved quite heavily in the world of cyber recently, not on the dark side I hasten to add, I am firmly in the light. I have been doing some work on helping to build a regional cluster and this is the reason that I keep blogging about the topic.

But what is cyber? When I use the word to those outside of my immediate clique, their faces go blank or even worse, their lips curl up. The word cyber either means nothing at all to them or is a threat, as in cybercrime or cyber-attack. The word has become firmly associated with bad things.

The newspaper headlines don’t help. Take today’s: North Korean cyber gangs blitz Irish companies with ‘almost daily’ attacks; Cyber-security threat to UK ‘as serious as terrorism’ – GCHQ; One in four firms have been victim of cyber attack, survey warns.

Instead the word really means anything relating to or characteristic of the culture of computers, information technology, and virtual reality. We all live in a cyber-age and the word should be synonymous with all the good things that modern technology can bring.

Thanks to a comment from Anthony, I am beginning to wonder if the word is letting us down. Our focus as a cluster should be on resilience within a cyber world, staying safe and coping when things inevitably go wrong. But the word diverts us from this aim, it distracts us, it is redolent of fear and suspicion. It puts people on the defensive.

We need to keep the word cyber away from the general user community. It is fine as an industry word but it has become as tarnished as many other bits of jargon we use – including digital.

From now on I am going to talk about staying safe online. That sounds much more warm and cuddly.

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