Can steel fences halt the march of cyber?

Cyber: for some, it’s a prefix that conjures up images of Dr Who’s silvery cyborg opponents. For others, it’s the equally science-fiction but very different image of Neuromancer-style cyberpunk hackers, and then of course there are its inevitable x-rated virtual reality uses.

All of which goes some way to explaining why some IT professionals push back, privately at least, against applying ‘cyber’ to anything in the real world of technology, preferring terms such as information security or infosec. But it’s to little or no avail, because for most senior folk in industry, and especially for the bandwagon-jumpers in government, cyber is now shorthand for cybersecurity.

There’s a lot more to secure

Why not just call it ‘security’? After all, that’s what it is – we need security for our computer systems and networks, our websites and our digital data. But I was reminded why not when I visited the co-located International Cyber Expo and International Security Expo in London recently.

Comparing the former with an exhibition such as Infosecurity Europe – which I see now bills itself as, yes, a “leading cyber security event” – it was notable how much smaller most of the ICE exhibitors looked to be. Where Infosec attracted many hardware and software vendors, there seemed to be a bigger focus here on consultancies and managed service providers, and on the recruitment of IT security professionals.

And then comparing ICE with its co-located sibling, it was notable how much smaller the cyber side was than the ‘security’ show – and walking through it was clear why. The breadth of engineering and technology on show was really quite something, from steel fencing and retractable metal barriers – hostile vehicle mitigation was a notable theme here – through body scanners and anti-intruder radar to stab-resistant hi-vis vests.

No more droning on

In a nod to one of the hottest topics of the day, there was also a section devoted to drone technology – both pro, for surveillance and the like, and anti, for seeing who is watching you or for dealing with intruders in your airspace.

Two things struck me out of all this. The first was that remote working, cloud computing, SD-WANs and all the rest have had infosec professionals talking about de-perimeterisation and the death – or the virtualisation – of the network perimeter. But in the wider world of security the perimeter is very much alive. Indeed, just like the network attack surface it may even be expanding, thanks to the growing threats of drones, the use of vehicles as weapons, industrial espionage, and more.

And the second was how much the overlap between the areas continues to grow. Electronic door locks, radar surveillance systems, body scanners and many others all need network connectivity, for instance, which means they also need cybersecurity. So infosec professionals need to get involved, if they are not already, as otherwise they and their systems risk being outflanked.

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Bryan is a technology enthusiast and industry veteran. He has been analysing, explaining and writing about IT and business in a highly engaging manner for around three decades. His experience spans the early days of minicomputers and PC technology, through the emergence of cellular data and smart mobile devices, to the latest developments of the software-defined age in which we all live today. Over his career, Bryan has seen at first-hand how IT changes the world – and how the world changes IT – and he brings that extensive insight to his role as an industry analyst.