Hybrid war is an attempt to combine different forms of war to gain strategic advantage. Hybrid war may not be entirely new, but it has gained importance and relevance in the new reality. Countries are employing non-state actors and information technology to achieve their objectives. The focus of hybrid war becomes the role of civilians: what they think, how they think, and act.
Contemporary digital means of communication allow hybrid actors to influence the groups of civilians through disinformation campaigns, for instance. Therefore, trust becomes the centre of hybrid war.
So what is Hybrid War?
Hybrid war is a mix of conventional and unconventional instruments of power used to exploit vulnerabilities to achieve political objectives.
With Russia starting a war against Ukraine, the Ukrainian government established a new front line – on the Internet. Ukraine asked big technology companies to participate in this hybrid war. Moreover, the Ukrainian ministry of Defense also launched an IT Army for Ukraine. The goal of this initiative is to carry out cyber attacks on Russian targets. Today, it is estimated that there are approximately 400,000 hackers online. The phenomenon here is that it is a volunteer movement.
What does trust have to do with Hybrid War?
Cyberspace includes a physical layer (hardware), a logical layer (data distribution), and a human layer (users). It is usually managed by private organisations rather than by public ones. However, it has a significant effect on public organisations due to the high importance of the human factor.
Trust remains critical to creating resilience in the phase of a hybrid war. Trust on the societal level is a powerful tool to neutralise attempts of disinformation campaigns and remain consistent in action fighting against the enemy. It also requires sustained effort on a structural level from the public institutions. The goal is to create a strong connection between civilians and the government through transparent and inclusive communication.
Hybrid war as a realm
Here are some recent examples of online censorship, disinformation spread, and access blocking. Examples:
- YouTube stopped monetisation for several Russian channels.
- Google stopped allowing Russian State Media to sell ads using its tools.
- Facebook and Google banned downloads of Russia Today’s mobile app.
- Facebook restricted users’ accounts in Russia and Ukraine for creating fake personas posing as independent news entities.
Trust is core to a healthy democratic discourse. It is critical to a functioning state to keep strength in resilience against hybrid warfare. The topic of trust is complex in the national defence sector. Will hybrid war be ended with the end of conventional war? It remains an open question for today.
We hope this blog has provided you with some insight into the importance of a human factor in a hybrid war.
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