What is a cyber weapon?

A new ‘cyber’-phrase has emerged recently, adding to the already cluttered glossary of cyber warfare.

In May, it emerged that the US and UK are collaborating to develop so-called “cyber weapons” to defend their interests in cyber space. Cyber weapons, said the UK’s armed forces minister, are now regarded as “an integral part of the country’s armoury”.

So what is a cyber weapon? The US military has reportedly drafted a classified list of cyber weapons that includes computer viruses and software that can be used to penetrate enemy networks.

Defining these tools as weapons, as opposed to systems or processes, allows the military to apply the same authorisation controls as they apply to conventional weapons such as guns and tanks. For this reason, this is one neologism of the cyber era that at least has a practical purpose.

As for the prefix ‘cyber’, this has long been divorced of its original meaning. It derives from cybernetics, the study of regulatory systems, whose root is the Greek word kybernetes, meaning ‘steersman’.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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