We use the internet for many different purposes. We can shop, watch movies, spend time on social media or play games at a casino online. However, the internet is not just a technology that appeals to casual users: in times of war, it can also turn into a battlefield. Modern armies are fighting not only on land but also on the internet, and information warfare has become just as important today as having a large number of soldiers. So, what exactly is information warfare and what trends does it cover? In this article, we answer these questions.
What is Information Warfare?
The information war is a term that has been used since the 1970s and generally means gaining an advantage over the opponent by using information & communication technology. The sides of this war do not see each other and do not shoot at each other, but they are constantly at war on the internet, social media, TV, radio and print media. In general, anything that misleads the opponent or gains an advantage over him by manipulation of information falls within the scope of information warfare. In other words, there is no single and fixed method: if you mislead the enemy by creating false intelligence reports and have an army deployed in the wrong place, for example, you have won the information war on that front. But you can do the same with a simple tweet and still contribute to this war. Gaining advantage with created or manipulated information is the main goal of information warfare.
Information War Trends
Creating false information or changing existing information to deceive the enemy was and is the main purpose of information warfare in the past. So, the purpose still hasn’t changed, but the methods used to achieve this goal have changed. In 1944, Adolf Hitler was waiting for the USA to attack but had no idea where they would launch the attack. The USA created fake radio traffic, sent spies carrying false information and even used decoy equipment to mislead Hitler. Thinking this false information was true, Hitler misplaced his army, and the beaches of Normandy became almost defenceless: you know the sequel to this historic event as “D-Day”. Normandy landings were one of the best examples of information warfare.
So, how do you deceive the enemy nowadays? “Fake news” is one of the modern information war trends. For example, you can hire hundreds of trolls and thousands of bots on a not-so-big budget. They continue to spread fake news using social media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.) 24/7 from different accounts. Such a virtual army can be used to mislead not only the enemy but also the rest of the world. For example, you can create news that the enemy is attacking civilians with chemical weapons and gain public support. You can also do the opposite: you can “prove” that this is actually a lie and that no chemical weapons were used at all – you just need a bigger virtual army.
Your virtual soldiers can work from home, do not need ammunition and do not take any losses. All they need is a computer and internet connection. A single troll may be followed by tens of thousands of people, and if a quarter of those followers change their minds, that’s a huge improvement: it means there are now thousands of people supporting your country, and they will again volunteer to spread your propaganda on social media. Troll armies are even effective enough to demoralize attacking or defending armies, and they can change the minds of thousands of people without firing a single shot.
Of course, fake news propaganda isn’t the only modern trend in information wars. The Internet can also be used to report the position and capacity of enemy armies. Soldiers on the battlefield normally have to use special equipment for this job. However, instead, they can take a picture of the enemy forces with their smartphones and inform their entire armies, not just their commanders, with the coordinates in a matter of seconds. It is also possible to use this to mislead the enemy: you can take a picture of your own military forces and post them on social media to mislead the enemy or make your army appear larger/smaller than it is. In general, as long as you mislead the enemy, you will win the information war, and the only limit for this is your imagination.
Information warfare is no longer just fake intelligence reports, misleading official statements or false flag operations. In the past, this type of war was waged by intelligence experts, but now anyone, even a nation, can be a part of the information war. This is the most important trend: deceiving the enemy can now be done not only by intelligence experts but by anyone.