What gives business continuity managers sleepless nights? Snowstorms, pandemics, hurricanes and industrial action have all topped the list at one time or another. At the moment, cyber-attacks are the hot item. According to at least one recent report, hackers are considered number one out of the threats potentially affecting enterprises and organisations today. Who will survive? Darwin said that it would be the fittest. He meant those entities best adapted to their environment, and not necessarily the strongest, the fastest or even the smartest. Do Darwin’s ideas translate from the real into the virtual world, and what does it mean for threats and horizon scanning?

In general terms, Darwin’s theory of evolution carries over into the web quite naturally. Enterprises go about their cyber-lives and are affected by freak events (software bugs, server failures) and predators (cyber-criminals) just like any other organism in the real world. And as in the real world, threats and horizon scanning in cyberspace is not about predicting the future, but about exploring possibilities and looking beyond usual patterns or timescales to see if your business continuity strategies are robust. So we can hope to do better than accidental evolution (or corporate demise) by taking an active interest in how our futures might shape up. Can we go further still?

Yes, by taking a broader view of all things ‘cyber’. The word ‘cyber’ currently means ‘relating to or characteristic of the culture of computers, information technology, and virtual reality’, according to oxforddictionaries.com. However, ‘cyber’ also occurs in ‘cybernetics’. Cybernetics was defined by Norman Wiener back in 1948 as “the scientific study of control and communication in the animal and the machine.” Don’t let the date fool you. The idea of controlling your environment, and not just trying to adapt or defend against what might happen, could be the difference between sinking and swimming – or surviving and thriving. It’s just as true in cyberspace as it ever was in the real world.