This brings up an interesting question: How do you spell cyber… anything? While this may seem like a trivial topic, I do think it matters.
At first glance, spelling cyber just seems all over the map. For example, many people still use two words for Cyber Security. Some still use a dash: Cyber-Security. But more and more articles and books are moving to just one word with a small “s” in the middle – Cybersecurity.
The single word has become the norm in Washington D.C. in government circles – including the White House, Washington Post and other news outlets. Even foreign conventions are starting to combine cyber words.
Another option is to drop “security” altogether and just use the word cyber instead of cybersecurity in some cases. This trend may allow for even more merging of words. For example, “Cyber Security Threat” becomes “Cyber Threat” and eventually we have “Cyberthreat.”
Many people have been using the word cyberspace for years. The term can have multiple meanings, but is often used interchangeably with the Internet or the World Wide Web. And yet, other cyber words are evolving within the English (or American-English) language.
If you type in “cyberattack” in Google, you will be asked if you meant to add a space (two words). But interestingly enough, the search results are very different with the space in between. The single word “cyberattack” yields 1.2 million page views, but the two words “cyber attack” yield about 10.5 million page views. More importantly, the top results are very different on these two searches. These different results can come from different spellings of cyber within headlines, books and articles.
Yes - Spelling Does Matter
So why should we care? Are we witnessing a new “cybermania?” Perhaps.
The “cyber” word is showing up everywhere. We now have cyberbullies, cybercars and more. Just adding “cyber” out front is hot - almost the new “e” from a decade ago. We used to hear a lot more about “e-government” and “e-everything.” Over time, that terminology became less popular. As we now talk about mobile government. Nevertheless, e-government is still widely used today.
Moving forward, as more areas of society use the Internet, mobile apps and technology, there will be a security component to all these new topics that some call the consumerization of technology. The word “cyber” out front could become the new normal for an ever-growing list of security solutions within technology topics – or just another way of implying "computer-oriented." I suspect we will be seeing more cyberpets, cyberpower and even cybersports in virtual worlds. This may make the security-focused link confusing.
I also believe there is a growing specialization in the various fields of cybersecurity. The new words are a reflection of entirely new industries in specialized security categories – almost like the medical areas where doctors specialize in specific topics. For example, cyberdefense or cyberwar can be considered sub-areas within cybersecurity. That’s right – our new cyber language is telling us about future job opportunities for our teenagers - so take note when you hear new cyber words.
Beyond technology trends and the evolution of the American (and English) vocabulary, spelling matters for reasons like school spelling bees and computer spell checkers which put little red lines under cyber-words. Our spelling also shows how we talk about various topics and how these new terms are interrelated.
As a practical matter, I recommend trying multiple spellings when researching various “cyber-security” topics. I find very different results by separating-out the word cyber or combing the word cyber with other words or adding a dash.
And yes, this topic does come up in the daily life of a chief security officer. When we were building our Michigan Cyber Initiative document last year, we debated on how to spell “cybersecurity.” Should we spell out the two words: “Cyber” and “Security” in the title? Or, should we combine them into one word: Cybersecurity? Or, what?
In the end, the word “Cyber” won out and stood alone to best capture our meaning, since combining cyber words seems to be the new normal.
What we later found interesting was that our document didn’t come up (as a first page choice) within a Google search when looking for “State Cybersecurity Initiatives.” We did some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work and got that fixed.
So, how do you spell cyber?
Daniel J. Lohrmann is an internationally recognized cybersecurity leader, technologist, keynote speaker and author.
During his distinguished career, he has served global organizations in the public and private sectors in a variety of executive leadership capacities, receiving numerous national awards including: CSO of the Year, Public Official of the Year and Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leader.
Lohrmann led Michigan government’s cybersecurity and technology infrastructure teams from May 2002 to August 2014, including enterprisewide Chief Security Officer (CSO), Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) roles in Michigan.
He currently serves as the Chief Security Officer (CSO) and Chief Strategist for Security Mentor Inc. He is leading the development and implementation of Security Mentor’s industry-leading cyber training, consulting and workshops for end users, managers and executives in the public and private sectors. He has advised senior leaders at the White House, National Governors Association (NGA), National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO), U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), federal, state and local government agencies, Fortune 500 companies, small businesses and nonprofit institutions.
He has more than 30 years of experience in the computer industry, beginning his career with the National Security Agency. He worked for three years in England as a senior network engineer for Lockheed Martin (formerly Loral Aerospace) and for four years as a technical director for ManTech International in a US/UK military facility.
Lohrmann is the author of two books: Virtual Integrity: Faithfully Navigating the Brave New Web and BYOD for You: The Guide to Bring Your Own Device to Work. He has been a keynote speaker at global security and technology conferences from South Africa to Dubai and from Washington, D.C., to Moscow.
He holds a master's degree in computer science (CS) from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a bachelor's degree in CS from Valparaiso University in Indiana.
Follow Lohrmann on Twitter at: @govcso
Building effective virtual government requires new ideas, innovative thinking and hard work. From cybersecurity to cloud computing to mobile devices, Dan discusses what’s hot and what works in the world of gov tech.