Information warfare

Information warfare (IW) is a concept involving the battlespace use and management of information and communication technology (ICT) in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent. Information warfare is the manipulation of information trusted by a target without the target's awareness, so that the target will make decisions against their interest but in the interest of the one conducting information warfare. As a result, it is not clear when information warfare begins, ends, and how strong or destructive it is.[1] Information warfare may involve collection of tactical information, assurance(s) that one's own information is valid, spreading of propaganda or disinformation to demoralize or manipulate[citation needed] the enemy and the public, undermining the quality of opposing force information and denial of information-collection opportunities to opposing forces. Information warfare is closely linked to psychological warfare.[2]

The United States military focus tends to favor technology, and hence tends to extend into the realms of electronic warfare, cyberwarfare, information assurance and computer network operations, attack and defense.

Most of the rest of the world use the much broader term of "Information Operations" which, although making use of technology, focuses on the more human-related aspects of information use, including (amongst many others) social network analysis, decision analysis and the human aspects of command and control.


Information warfare can take many forms:

The U.S. Air Force has had Information Warfare Squadrons since the 1980s. In fact, the official mission of the U.S. Air Force is now "To fly, fight and air, space and cyberspace",[3] with the latter referring to its information warfare role.

As the U.S. Air Force often risks aircraft and aircrews to attack strategic enemy communications targets, remotely disabling such targets using software and other means can provide a safer alternative. In addition, disabling such networks electronically (instead of explosively) also allows them to be quickly re-enabled after the enemy territory is occupied. Similarly, counter-information warfare units are employed to deny such capability to the enemy. The first application of these techniques was used against Iraqi communications networks in the Gulf War.

Also during the Gulf War, Dutch hackers allegedly stole information about U.S. troop movements from U.S. Defense Department computers and tried to sell it to the Iraqis, who thought it was a hoax and turned it down. In January 1999, U.S. Air Intelligence computers were hit by a co-ordinated attack (Moonlight Maze), part of which came from a Russian mainframe. This could not be confirmed as a Russian cyber attack due to non-attribution – the principle that online identity may not serve as proof of real world identity.[4][5][6]

Information warfare is fundamentally not about information technologies (IT). It is about people, both those in military and civil society, both the supporters and opponents.[7]