Hybrid Warfare - Understanding Influence Operation Threats, Information Warfare And Cyberwarfare.

    The Threat of Influence Operations:  

    The recent hacking of governmental websites, which has been largely blamed on Russia, has strengthened the generally held belief that Hybrid Warfare is synonymous with hostile cyber actions. 

    • This ignores the far-reaching and deadly consequences of enemy influence operations in the economic and defense sectors. 
    • These activities are more devious and harmful from a strategic standpoint. 
    • Influence operations, unlike cyber operations, may last for a long time. 

    While the EU is generally well-equipped to cope with hostile cyber operations, knowledge of and countermeasures against influence operations are unexpectedly lacking, both at the national and EU levels. 

    Cyber operations are an important instrument in the spectrum of warfighting. 

    They are a set of capabilities that are constantly assembled and deployed in varied configurations as policy goals change. 

    However, cyber is only one instrument. A wide range of instruments are available in the toolbox. 

    • When a specific tool combination is deployed, it may alter over time as the targeted aims are continually reassessed to ensure that assaults stay below the threshold of war, to the degree practicable. 
    • When such judgments are made, there is a danger of miscalculation, which might lead to armed conflict if the threshold is reached. 
    • Deliver maximum impact for militarily weaker states in order to compensate for this deficit by fundamentally weakening the speed, efficiency, and confidence with which political choices are made. 
    • That involves political choices to activate a military response and deploy in response to hostile conduct by an enemy state, which need popular backing. 

    Another goal of such influence efforts is to erode political support for defense expenditures. 

    • Russia and China both have lesser military capabilities than NATO, and as a result, they have created a sophisticated Hybrid Toolbox with which the EU must deal effectively and quickly to safeguard its interests. 
    • Because they are concrete, quantifiable, and fathomable, with immediate and sometimes apparent impacts, and in some circumstances with physical repercussions, cyber operations draw attention and catch the imagination of the public and state institutions. 

    Hybrid warfare has existed since the birth of combat, but protagonists have lacked the tremendous force multiplier provided by cyber capabilities, which amplifies the effect of Hybrid operations. 

    • This may be seen in the rapidity with which misinformation is spread, which weakens socio-political cohesiveness. 
    • It may also result in the loss of control over critical operations and data (e.g. infrastructure, banking, health, etc.). 

    Cyber is a comparatively easy realm to protect for political masters and corporations in democracies, since it is a well to which funds, experience, and techniques can be allocated. 

    They may also show their constituents that this is considerably more difficult for politicians, the media, and state institutions to comprehend and respond to. 

    A Combination Of Defense And Influence Activities

    As a result, Hybrid Warfare encompasses a far larger variety of Influence activities. 

    • These are designed to erode faith in activities. 
    • The democratic system's cornerstone is trust, which allows it to make choices via its procedures and institutions. 
    • As a result, such assaults may have strategic ramifications by weakening faith in the system and fostering division in society along the many fault lines of language, race, religion, economic position, and so on. 

    One of the main goals of Attacker states is to create new perceptions that may compete with existing facts. 

    This tactic employs a grain of truth as an anchor for a misinformation campaign in order to provide a completely false tale a veneer of legitimacy that can be transmitted quickly and widely via cyberspace. 

    This is especially true in terms of defense: 

    • As previously stated, one of the main goals is to erode public support for military actions and deployments. 
    • For example, they've been used to falsely accuse troops of human rights violations in our armed vexatious cases. 

    Deepfakes may also be used to portray NATO personnel on deployment in a misleading light. 

    The result is two direct effects that are critical to the Attackers strategic objectives at a time when,


    (1) Delay political decision-making on military response and deployment as public confidence in the armed forces erodes and politicians dither, giving the attackers time and space to consolidate (also politically) their gains on the ground. 

    (2) Delay military acquisition and any modernization efforts as politicians respond to public opinion that has already been corrupted. 

    A Combination Of Financial Warfare, Economic Targeting, And Influence Operations

    Another significant sector that affects defense and security is economic and business activity, as well as technological innovation. 

    • Patent (IP) management for dual-use technology should be a major defense issue. 
    • Whoever understands the secrets of new game-changing technology first will have strategic advantages that are game-changing (e.g. Quantum Computing and Artificial Intelligence). 

    This isn't only about the future, however. 

    Obtaining majority shareholdings in EU businesses creating and managing cutting-edge dual-use satellite technology that may give the finest assistance available to hypersonic missiles is now a critical actual and conceivable danger to the economic, military, technical, and corporate combination. 

    Such hybrid influence activities should be a top focus for the European Union. 

    Influence operations may not even be primarily targeted at defense companies per se, making them much less visible as hostile actions. 

    Political, military, security, intelligence, and corporate leaders must up their game by confronting the uncomfortable fact that influence operations may not even be primarily targeted at defense companies per se, making them much less visible as hostile actions. 

    • Instead, they go after private sector firms that have nothing to do with the military in principle, such as sophisticated manufacturing, software development and service firms, digital platforms, and, most importantly, the space industry. 

    In terms of opposing Influence Operations, the commercial space sector should become a crucial area that requires special attention. 

    In terms of the space industry's hardware, the cost of launching spacecraft into space is decreasing, allowing nations to use commercial space operations for military purposes. 

    Technologies that are of special interest to enemies, such as the development and deployment of hypersonic vehicles to transport military assets and deploy them swiftly, are a crucial area of military usage. 

    The commercialization of data in space, in particular. 

    Similar to the start of the nuclear weapons era in the mid-1940s, data and its management is the major new geopolitical and military battlefield. 

    In terms of pure military operations, the digital backbone of the armed forces, which stretches from satellites to platoon commanders, guiding missiles and supporting both decision-making and operations, may well start to determine the military balance among the world's great powers in the four domains of land, sea, air, and information. 

    As these private-sector-led technologies increase military capabilities, the race is on to see who can acquire a specific IP first. 

    Despite seeming to be unrelated to the military, this is the primary area in which foreign influence operations must be fought. 

    This is especially true given our military's reliance on the private sector for research, development, and procurement. 

    China and Russia, on the other hand, depend on private-public partnerships and collaboration, with national goals (such as AI, 5G, and Quantum Computing) driving research and development. 

    As a result, protecting our vital intellectual property in the private sector must become a top concern. 

    Our private-sector enterprises are the legal owners of these strategic patents. 

    The issue of who controls these corporations' shareholdings, boards, and management must become a major national security priority. 

    This is because business owners and managers have complete control over who receives their new technology discoveries, whether they are friends or adversaries. 

    For the media, the public, the political establishment, and state institutions, hybrid operations against such corporations (to obtain their IPs) are hardly the stuff of spectacular tales. 

    Furthermore, they are not necessarily takeover activities headed by EU-based and licensed firms with monies already in the EU's banking system, but whose ultimate beneficiaries may be Russian or Chinese, or anybody else. 

    Until 2018, certain Baltic nations were mostly Russian-speaking. These monies are likely still moving in the EU, where they may be readily exploited to purchase enterprises that are strategically helpful to rivals. 

    In other instances, opportunistic or purposeful exploitation and manipulation of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) concerns in publicly traded corporations may be used to compel a change in ownership, board of directors, and management. 

    Areas For Leveraging DeepFakes

    DeepFakes may also be used in such influence operations to fraudulently portray politicians, business leaders, or auditors making remarks that indicate a significantly worse financial status of their company or the standards to which they comply, for example. 

    The speed with which social media may disseminate these DeepFakes before the truth is re-established (if at all), might result in a stock market crash, a bank run (if it is falsely believed to be bankrupt), and eventually civil upheaval. 

    It may cause the implementation of vital technologies and infrastructure that impact economic development and growth, such as 5G, nuclear energy and waste treatment, and vaccinations, to be delayed. 

    Such sponsored enterprises may pose a direct security and defense danger to their proxy non-state actors. 

    Belgium is especially vulnerable: it ranked ninth in the world in terms of patents per million people in 2018, just ahead of Japan. Many EEA countries were also in the top seven. 

    Many businesses have had substantial cash flow challenges as a result of COVID, which provides chances for hostile influence operations to purchase stakes in small and medium-sized technological firms. 

    In Hybrid warfare Influence Operations, defense, security, technology, and the economy are all intertwined, and quick response is critical. 

    Not just in the Cyber realm, but also in the economic sphere, we must quickly establish resilience and the high-quality reaction necessary to cope with influence-induced crises. 

    • Building resilience and crisis management capacities requires a public-private cooperation. 
    • The creation of a trustworthy network within which information may be transmitted in a safe environment is a cornerstone of this collaboration. 
    • The institutional foundation for such an attempt may be an Economic Security and Intelligence capacity that operates this collaboration and assembles a collection of disparate data and information into a cohesive picture of the danger presented by Influence Operations. 
    • To make state institutions take economic influence operations seriously in the same way they take other (more visible) threats seriously, a bureaucratic and business culture shift is required.
    • Meanwhile, business must acknowledge and comprehend that not all market activity is benign, and to trust the state with what they are facing. 

    Citizens, businesses, and the government all have a similar interest in preserving our economy, security, and way of life, thus the moment for such a transition in culture and institutional frameworks is ideal. 

    Influence Operations, much more than cyber per se, pose a serious and direct danger to all three. 

    Our society will suffer catastrophic repercussions if business as usual continues. 

    The only way to defeat hostile Influence Operations is to establish and implement a new mode of operation that depends on cooperation between state institutions and the private sector on the one hand, and between the state and the private sector on the other. 

    The ministries of the economy, finance, and infrastructure must all have a role in national security. 

    • Beyond cyber-attacks, the longer-term concern in Ukraine is precisely this subtle blend of strategic influence operations. 
    • Similar dangers to the EU's economic, technological, and military combination must be assumed, and the EU must respond quickly and aggressively.

    ~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

    You may also want to read and learn more about Global Geo Politics, Conflicts, And Conflict Resolution here.

    Sources & References:

    • Eberle, J. and Daniel, J., 2022. Anxiety geopolitics: Hybrid warfare, civilisational geopolitics, and the Janus-faced politics of anxiety. Political Geography92, p.102502.
    • Muradov, I., 2022. The Russian hybrid warfare: the cases of Ukraine and Georgia. Defence Studies, pp.1-24.
    • Magnuson, S., Keay, M. and Metcalf, K., 2022. Countering Hybrid Warfare: Mapping Social Contracts to Reinforce Societal Resiliency in Estonia and Beyond (Spring 2022). Texas National Security Review.
    • Панфілов, О. and Савченко, О., 2022. THE SOCIOLOGICAL ASPECT IN THE CONTENT OF THE MODERN HYBRID WARFARE. " Вісник НЮУ імені Ярослава Мудрого". Серія: Філософія, філософія права, політологія, соціологія1(52).
    • Solmaz, T., 2022. ‘Hybrid warfare’: A dramatic example of conceptual stretching. National security and the future23(1), pp.89-102.
    • Bhattacharya, I., 2022. Hybrid Warfare Teasing Security Concerns in Asia. In The Palgrave Handbook of Global Social Problems (pp. 1-15). Cham: Springer International Publishing.
    • Gaiser, L., 2022. Chinese hybrid warfare approach and the logic of strategy. National security and the future23(1), pp.67-77.
    • Andersson, M., 2022. Russia's use of Hybrid Warfare against the European Union 2014-2020: A qualitative content analysis.
    • Kennedy, D., 2022. The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen: Warfare, Constitutions, and the Making of the Modern World by Linda Colley. Journal of Interdisciplinary History52(3), pp.430-431.
    • Arild, S., NATIONAL RESILIENCE AS A TOOL TO COUNTER HYBRID THREATS Sunde Arild. У збірнику представлено матеріали ІІ Міжнародної науково-практичної конференції «Управління та адміністрування в умовах протидії гібридним загрозам національній безпеці». Матеріали подано у авторській редакції. Редакційна колегія може не поділяти думок авторів. За достовірність даних та унікальність поданого до друку матеріалу, p.217.
    • Coldea, F., 2022. Intelligence challenges in countering hybrid threats. National security and the future23(1), pp.49-66.
    • Davies, L., 2022. A “hybrid offensive” in the Balkans? Russia and the EU-led Kosovo-Serb negotiations. European Security31(1), pp.1-20.
    • Hook, K. and Marcantonio, R., 2022. Environmental dimensions of conflict and paralyzed responses: the ongoing case of Ukraine and future implications for urban warfare. Small Wars & Insurgencies, pp.1-29.
    • Kurban, O. and Stadnichenko, O., 2022. Hybrid Conflicts in Modern Geopolitics: Based on Russian-Ukrainian Relations From 1991-2021. In Handbook of Research on Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Conflicts and Their Impact on State and Social Security (pp. 70-89). IGI Global.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    1. What is Hybrid Warfare?
      • To put it another way, hybrid warfare is defined as the interaction or fusion of traditional and unconventional weapons of power and subversion. These instruments or methods are synergistically used to exploit an antagonist's weaknesses and create synergistic effects. Hybrid warfare is a military tactic initially advocated by Frank Hoffman that combines political warfare with conventional, irregular, and cyberwarfare, as well as other influencing measures including false news, diplomacy, lawfare, and foreign electoral interference. 
    2. What is an example of the term "hybrid warfare"? 
      • The 2006 confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah is one of the most often cited instances of a hybrid war. Hezbollah is a well-organized non-state force backed by Iran.  While it often works as a mouthpiece for Iran, the organization has its own goal. 
    3. What does NATO mean when it says "hybrid warfare"? 
      • Disinformation, cyber assaults, economic pressure, and the deployment of irregular armed groups, as well as the employment of regular troops, are all examples of hybrid threats. 
    4. What is a GREY war? 
      • Grey zone actions, in general, include pursuing political goals via carefully planned operations; moving gently toward goals rather than achieving definitive outcomes fast; working to stay below critical escalatory thresholds in order to avert conflict; and using all instruments of state power. 
    5. Why is hybrid warfare a national security threat? 
      •  Hybrid warfare employs all aspects of state power to force its will on another state, focusing on the weakest development areas and attaining outcomes. Indeed, this kind of warfare assumes that society becomes the first line of defense. 
    6. What are the dangers that exist in the grey zone? 
      • The end outcome Hybrid threats, sharp power, political warfare, malevolent influence, irregular warfare, and contemporary deterrence are all terms used to describe the gray zone phenomena. The International Security Program at CSIS has looked at these dangers and how the US might effectively discourage, campaign in, and react to gray zone tactics. 
    7. What is cyberwarfare's primary goal? 
      • The purpose of cyberwarfare, according to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, is to "weaken, disrupt, or destroy" another country. Cyberwarfare programs aim for a broad range of objectives that might hurt national interests in order to accomplish their aims. 
    8. When did hybrid warfare first appear on the scene? 
      • First, in 2005, two US military officers wrote on the "development of hybrid wars," emphasizing the use of both conventional and unconventional strategies, techniques, and tactics in modern combat, as well as psychological and information-related elements of current battles. 
    9. What is non-kinetic warfare, and how does it differ from kinetic warfare? 
      • Non-kinetic Warfare (NKW) is a complete operational concept that is employed in the interlaced, overlapping, and integrated Electromagnetic Spectrum, Information Space, and Cyber Space to allow non-kinetic environment supremacy, according to our definition. 
    10. Is there a distinction between conventional and unconventional warfare? 
      • Unconventional warfare is an effort to win victory indirectly via a proxy army, while conventional warfare is employed to directly diminish the opponent's military capabilities through assaults and maneuvers. 
    11. What is subthreshold warfare, and how does it work? 
      • Sub-threshold warfare, a sort of warfare in which open armed combat is avoided but confrontation is definitely occurring, is arguably a new character on the stage. The Salisbury assaults, Chinese activity along the 9 Dash Line, and western involvement in Iraq and Syria are all examples of this. 
    12. What is the definition of a proxy army? 
      • Non-state proxy armed forces are often defined as irregular military organizations that engage on behalf of a foreign authority in an internal armed conflict, either entirely or partly. Militias, rebels, and "terrorists" are among them. 
    13. What does fifth-generation warfare imply? 
      • Fifth-generation warfare (5GW) is characterized by non-kinetic military actions such as social engineering, deception, and cyberattacks, as well as emerging technology like as artificial intelligence and completely autonomous systems. 
    14. Who came up with the phrase "hybrid warfare"? 
      • Hybrid warfare is a military tactic initially advocated by Frank Hoffman that combines political warfare with conventional, irregular, and cyberwarfare, as well as other influencing measures including false news, diplomacy, lawfare, and foreign electoral interference. 
    15. How can you put a halt to a hybrid war? 
      • Training, drills, and education are all important parts in preparing to deal with hybrid threats. This entails putting decision–making procedures to the test as well as coordinating joint military and non-military responses with other stakeholders.