Understanding a Space Called Cyber

Mr. Nigel Jones, Director of the Cyber Masters Programme, Cranfield University at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.

Issue 48 - January 2014

There is no doubt that many people have difficulty grappling with the idea of cyber space, cyber security, information security and many other terms proliferating through the media and public policy.  Part of it is because the ‘virtual’ label makes it seem so intangible, and hard to touch.  Those who try to communicate the seriousness of the threat have difficulty in making it seem real and present.  Part of the problem is also because the subject doesn’t seem to conform to any traditional organisation that one would expect in a higher education institution or professional interest group.  When one opens a discussion on security with an engineer, it is not long before one needs to get a psychologist in the room too, and not just because one is talking to an engineer.  Rather, security is a problem that must work across disciplines and bring an understanding of technology and behaviour together.  Presenting a coherent whole across disciplines is difficult for any one person or group.

Some have tried to depict cyberspace as having a number of layers comprising the social, people, persona, information, data, network and physical layers.  I prefer to think of them as dimensions, as they are not so easily separated in layers and are much more interconnected.  The diagram below provides a graphical representation of cyber space.