Cyberspace: Where Did the Term Come From and What Does It Mean?

Rarely does a day go by that we don't come across the preface "Cyber." We hear it in conversation, on TV and radio. We see it in print. Regardless of the source, we mostly tend to think of the term as having some relation to computers and the Internet.

Cyberspace is recognized in my Word spell-checker, but cyberstudy is not. And to further cloud the issue, cyber is often used a single word, i.e. cyber crime, cyber intelligence. As time passes, what we once used as two words are now often merged into one. "Website" is now recognized as a single word in the Associated Press (AP) Style Manual (the guidebook for journalists).

After a lengthy search of more than a dozen websites for a definition of cyber and cyberspace, here's what I found:

· Three different forums had subscribers say it stood for computer sex (we know where they are coming from).

· Webopedia: A metaphor for describing the non-physical terrain created by computer systems. Online systems, for example, create a cyberspace within which people can communicate...

· Wikipedia: Cyberspace is the electronic medium of computer networks, in which online communication takes place.

· And some believe the term cybernetics, and in particular "cyber" derives from the Greek for steersman, rudder, or pilot. Cybernetics is a term that referred to electronic communication and control science.

· The term cyberspace even appears on website.

Yes...I do have better things to do, but since I've been working on a series of articles about digital detectives, I wondered how a prosecution witness would define cyberspace or cybercrime if it was used during testimony.

In recent TV news broadcasts I heard representatives from the NSA, Homeland Security and the military express their beliefs that the greatest threat to the U.S. is not a terrorist attack. These officials believe that cyberspace will be the means whereby villains cross into our boundaries...through the Internet.

Statistics indicate that our federal government experienced over 41,000 cyberattacks in 2010, and these are the ones they were able to detect. They spent close to $12 billion on Information Technology (IT) security that year-most of which covered employee salaries and benefits.

Identity theft is a growing problem. Chances are you have experienced it yourself or know someone who has. In my case I recovered a voicemail message from our home phone one Sunday afternoon. We were asked to call our bank's credit card fraud unit. They verified that we used our credit card to pay for dinner on a Friday evening (in Raleigh, NC), and the next day our card made a number of purchases in Palm Beach, FL. The purchases continued through Sunday until the card was maxed out.

More recently, I received an Email from Facebook security (yes, they really have a security department). They asked if I had made posts on my page that morning. I had not. It seems that some chap in a Russian province (which I can't pronounce, let alone spell) had been using my account.

Yes, law enforcement has made magnificent strides in the investigation of cybercrime. But will this prevent it? No it won't. IT security experts tell us that over 800 million personal records have been stolen by hackers over the recent past. And despite the most complex, hi-tech security software available, some cybercreep will eventually hack into it. Cyber forensics grew out of the screaming demand for greater law enforcement involvement in cybercrime. Today many agencies have created units that deal with this online mayhem, and many more are gearing up for it. The trouble is that these computer specialists may never see the light at the end of tunnel called cyberspace.


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