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  Information warfare has been replaced with information terrorism

Viktor Denisenko
2011 08 30

Society started speaking about the information warfare two decades ago. Today information aggression becomes reality. It might be expressed in different ways, the aggressor has a possibility to retain anonymity, though quite often it is possible to discern who is standing behind the attack.

The information warfare involves diverse activities. A propaganda war is one of the oldest activities; its principles were identified much earlier than the concept of the information warfare. Effectiveness of propaganda had great value in the fascist Germany and in Stalin’s USSR.

Propaganda war is most easily discerned since usually it attracts not anonymous media channels. George Pocheptsov, a famous expert in information wars, called such information warfare “a war for a human brain”.

Today information wars through information technologies became apparent. Cyber warfare which some time ago seemed impossible, today is treated as a real threat to human security and welfare. Cyber attacks have specific purpose: to destroy information, break into communication systems (e.g. between the military units) and use them for own purposes.

Lithuania as part of the EU and global information space is also encountering information aggression. Disagreements between Lithuania and Russia on the interpretation of historic events or processes might result in the propaganda conflicts. For instance, on 14 June 2004 (the Day of Mourning and Hope in Lithuania) the Russian First (Baltic) channel showed a broadcast where the 1940 occupation of Lithuania was denied (on 31 August the same channel again showed a similar broadcast).

Propaganda attacks were directed against Lithuania after the crash of the Russian fighter jet Su-27 in Ðakiai district in autumn of 2005. Then the attempts were made, through the official statements in the Russian mass media, to show Lithuania as an “unlawful” country, whereas the pilot of the fighter Valery Troyanov was treated as a hero. But as soon as Troyanov finished his propaganda role, he was dismissed from the service in Russian military forces.

Another interesting example: in summer 2008, when Lithuanian Seimas adopted amendments to the Law under which soviet symbols were in fact treated as fascist, and their public display was prohibited, the Lithuanian segment of the Internet.lt was attacked by hackers. About three hundred Lithuanian websites were destroyed during the attack; the hackers put lots of soviet symbols and offensive statements in Russian into the hacked websites. As a result valuable virtual assets were destroyed; website administrators and users encountered huge problems. According to the investigation, these attacks were organized by Russian hackers. Initially it was assumed that this was done by Russian special services, but it was practically impossible to prove that. In his book “(Non) Evident War” Mantas Martiðius wrote that the attack was executed via the servers in France and Sweden.

One more example: the case of the Estonian bronze soldier in spring of 2007. When the decision was made to remove the monument to soviet soldiers from the centre of Tallinn to the Military Cemetery, Estonia was attacked both virtually and through propaganda tools, which were accompanied by riots in Tallinn’s streets. Many of the websites of Estonian authorities faced mass hacker attacks. There are no doubts that behind them were Russian hackers, but it is impossible to say whether this was done by specialists from power structures or by the initiative of single “patriots”.

The above cases seem like targeted terror attacks rather than a systematic war. I’d say that today information terrorism is more spread than a long-lasting information war. The concepts of “information terrorism” and “information war” are in principle identical, but they should be separated. This would help to more specifically identify the threat and acknowledge that terrorism (even information) is a real challenge to the security of states, including Lithuania.

Surely, the relevance of the attacks in the information and virtual space will increase in the future.  The United States is going to take actions in acknowledging the real harm of such attacks: the Congress is currently considering a bill addressing cyber security issues, pursuant to which cyber attacks will be treated as an element of military actions, whereas the response to a cyber attack against the state might require not only virtual but also actual, i.e. military actions. Although the information war and information terrorism have not yet taken human lives, we can’t be sure about the future. Today discussions take place on possible catastrophic consequences of hackers breaking into control systems of air ports or nuclear plants. So far this is a speculative threat but tomorrow it might become reality.

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