Information warfare is the tactical and strategic use of information to gain an advantage. It includes multiple types of operations and has been pursued in radically different ways during different eras.
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. Information warfare may involve the collection of tactical information, assurance(s) that one’s own information is valid, spreading of propaganda or disinformation to demoralize or manipulate the enemy and the public, undermining the quality of the opposing force’s information and denial of information-collection opportunities to opposing forces. Information warfare is closely linked to psychological warfare.
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 is also known as cyberwarfare, electronic warfare and cyberattack.
Experts tend to associate information warfare with U.S. military and espionage systems, while other national systems may use different terminology.
In terms of practical implementation, information warfare was practiced in earlier times. For example, during the industrial age, airplanes would cover villages or towns with leaflets or materials as part of foreign policy implementation. As the industrial age progressed to the age of radio and television, this type of media was used in information warfare.
Today, nearly all relevant implementations involve digital media. Examples of modern information warfare include offensive strategies to invade or hobble an enemy’s IT infrastructure, as well as efforts to defend IT systems against cyberattacks.
Types of information warfare include:
- Using viruses or malware for cyberattacks
- Exploiting holes in a network
- Stealing information through various types of unauthorized access