On Cyber-Enabled Information Warfare and Information Operations

forthcoming, Oxford Handbook of Cybersecurity, 2019.

29 Pages Posted: 11 Aug 2017 Last revised: 23 May 2019

See all articles by Herbert Lin

Herbert Lin

Stanford - Center for International Security and Cooperation; Hoover Institution

Jaclyn Kerr

Georgetown University

Date Written: May 2019


The United States has no peer competitors in conventional military power. But its adversaries are increasingly turning to asymmetric methods for engaging in conflict. Much has been written about cyber warfare as a domain that offers many adversaries ways to counter the U.S. conventional military advantages, but for the most part, U.S. capabilities for prosecuting cyber warfare are as potent as those of any other nation. This paper advances the idea of cyber-enabled information warfare and influence operations (IWIO) as a form of conflict or confrontation to which the United States (and liberal democracies more generally) are particularly vulnerable and are not particularly potent compared to the adversaries who specialize in this form of conflict. IWIO is the deliberate use of information against an adversary to confuse, mislead, and perhaps to influence the choices and decisions that the adversary makes. IWIO is a hostile activity, or at least an activity that is conducted between two parties whose interests are not well-aligned, but it does not constitute warfare in the sense that international law or domestic institutions construe it. Cyber-enabled IWIO exploits modern communications technologies to obtain benefits afforded by high connectivity, low latency, high degrees of anonymity, insensitivity to distance and national borders, democratized access to publishing capabilities, and inexpensive production and consumption of information content. Some approaches to counter IWIO show some promise of having some modest but valuable defensive effect. But on the whole, there are no good solutions for large-scale countering of IWIO in free and democratic societies. Development of new tactics and responses is therefore needed.

Keywords: cybersecurity, information warfare, influence operations, hybrid warfare, ambiguous warfare

Suggested Citation

Lin, Herbert and Kerr, Jaclyn, On Cyber-Enabled Information Warfare and Information Operations (May 2019). forthcoming, Oxford Handbook of Cybersecurity, 2019. , Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3015680

Herbert Lin (Contact Author)

Stanford - Center for International Security and Cooperation ( email )

Encina Hall, C-236
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
650497-8600 (Phone)

Hoover Institution ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305-6010
United States
6504978600 (Phone)
6504978600 (Fax)

Jaclyn Kerr

Georgetown University

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