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Spotlight reports

Hacking for Influence

Cyber capabilities display attractive features for nation-states’ covert influence activities in the grey zone between war and peace. They can be used to support objectives of information warfare in several ways: collecting intelligence, doxing, infecting devices and webpages to spread propaganda, social media bots, and Distributed Denial of Service attacks. This paper focuses on cyber-attacks conducted by authoritarian states and their proxies in support of influence activities against liberal democracies. Russia’s practice confirms that cyber-attacks are attractive tools for authoritarian states to project national power and support other political influence activities. Cyber espionage seems to have strategic effects, whilst low-end cyber-attacks tend to produce tactical and operational effects; however, together with psychological operations they can have strategic effects on national security. Cyber-attacks can be used for the purpose of deterrence and coercion, but a better theoretical framework for cyberspace should be developed to explain their strategic impact. It is suggested that quantitative and qualitative methods, and operational and strategic level analysis be combined…
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