Information warfare

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Information warfare is the use and management of information in pursuit of a competitive advantage over an opponent. Information warfare may involve collection of tactical information, assurance that one's own information is valid, spreading of propaganda or disinformation among the enemy, undermining the quality of opposing force information and denial of information collection opportunities to opposing forces.


Information warfare can take many forms:

  • Television and radio transmission can be jammed.
  • Television and radio transmission can be hijacked for a disinformation campaign.
  • Logistics networks can be disabled.
  • Stock exchanges transactions can be sabotaged either with electronic intervention, leaking sensitive information or placing disinformation.

During the 1991 Gulf War, Dutch hackers 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 coordinated attack, part of which appeared to come from Russian hacking.


Information about own forces, allied forces and opposing forces has always been a key feature of military operations, discussed in Sun Tzu's The Art of War:

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Nations, corporations, and individuals each seek to increase, protect and exploit their own information while trying to limit and penetrate the adversary's. Methods to collect, store, analyse and exploit information cover the whole range of both military and commercial activities and whilst this discussion is related to the military application of the discipline these methods legitimately apply in the commercial environment.

Since the 1960s, there have been extraordinary improvements in the technical means of transmission, protection, collection, storage and analysis which have allowed significant improvements in the exploitation of the information domain.

Information Operations[edit]

Information Operations (Info Ops) is an evolving discipline within the military. It has emerged from earlier concepts such as "Command & Control Warfare" and "Information Warfare" - mainly US dominated, originating in the 1990s and considering lessons learned from the Gulf War(s), phenomena like the so-called "CNN Effect", and the enormous advance in Information Technology.

Today Germany leads a multinational effort on developing Info Ops as an integrating function / joint mission area within the military, called the "Multinational Information Operations Experiment" (MNIOE). The current 20 MNIOE partners define Info Ops as "The advice to and co-ordination of military activities affecting information and information systems – including system behaviour and capabilities – in order to create desired effects." This definition - and its related context - differs from extant national views (e.g., the USA or GBR) and provides an advanced approach to multinational and interagency information activities in support of crisis management and effects-based operations.

Designing and implementing guidance for Coalition actions to affect information and information systems (information activities) is a challenge; it applies to the whole scope of civil-military efforts from pre-crisis situations to post-conflict reconstruction, and spans all levels of involvement.

Ongoing initiatives for Info Ops Concept Development and Experimentation (CD&E) are derived from the following problem statement:

Joint and combined warfighters lack integrated processes and organisation to plan, execute and assess effects-based information activities in a multinational and interagency context based on a comprehensive and systemic understanding of the operational environment using all available and appropriate means. In particular:

  • commanders and their staff lack the means, methods and training to gain and maintain appropriate situational awareness and understanding of the information environment;
  • commanders are often unaware of the scope and scale of options to affect information and/or information systems;
  • relevant co-ordination processes are not institutionalised, but rather depend on the personality of actors, occur by chance and/or erratically;
  • extant organisational structures often limit the flexibility of the force to adapt to mission and situation requirements;
  • commanders often do not realise the full scope of opportunities as well as risk associated with mainstream military actions and their potential to create effects on information and information systems;
  • military plans and operations are often inadequately integrated with civil information activities; the overall consistency of comprehensive Coalition efforts needs to be improved in this respect.

The MNIOE project will develop solutions to answer the following questions (CD&E issues):

  • How do we describe the characteristics of the information environment to support focused systemic analysis?
  • What means, methods and training do we need to gain a comprehensive and systemic understanding of the information environment?
  • How do we incorporate comprehensive, clear, and achievable guidance for Coalition information activities (Coalition Information Strategy) in the multinational interagency strategic planning process?
  • How do we translate and implement the Coalition Information Strategy for coordinated civil and military action at the operational level of command?
  • How can we identify, rate, and exploit the full spectrum of effects in the information environment and military information activities within a comprehensive approach?
  • How do we appropriately consider the opportunities and risks associated with effects in the information environment and mainstream military and civil actions?
  • How do we design and implement efficient and effective advice and co-ordination for planning, execution and assessment of military information activities?
  • How do we coordinate effects and activities related to the information environment amongst military and civil actors within a comprehensive approach?
  • How do we share information to enable efficient and effective multinational interagency planning for Coalition information activities?
  • How do we share information to enable efficient and effective execution and assessment of military and civil information activities?


Organized teams of non-military, even non-governmental information fighters become an increasingly common phenomenon. They can advance different political agendas, be involved in astroturfing, or participate in election campaigns.


  • Science at War: Information Warfare, The History Channel
  • Arquilla, J. & Rondfeldt, D. In Athena's Camp, RAND 1997
  • Arquilla, J. & Rondfeldt, D. Networks and Netwars, RAND 2001
  • Winn Schwartau, ed, Information Warfare: Cyberterrorism: Protecting your personal security in the electronic age, Thunder's Mouth Press, 2nd ed, 1996, ISBN 1-56025-132-8
  • James Adams, The Next World War: Computers are the Weapons and the Front line is Everywhere, Simon and Schuster, 1998, ISBN 0-684-83452-9
  • Edward Waltz, Information Warfare Principles and Operations, Artech House, 1998, ISBN 0-89006-511-X
  • Thomas Rid, War and Media Operations, Routledge, 2007.

External links[edit]


Key papers[edit]

News item[edit]

United States Department of Defense IO Doctrine[edit]


This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Information warfare. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WarWiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.