New Zealand Chief of Army Writing Competition Winner of the Civilian Category December 2021.

 

THE IMPACT INFORMATION CAN HAVE ON THE NZ ARMY IN THE CONTEMPORARY BATTLESPACE OF INFORMATION WARFARE.

By Ms. T. Sanders

Information Warfare (IW) is becoming an essential part of fourth and fifth-generation warfare. IW is a comprehensive concept that has found several various definitions. One of the latest definitions of IW proposed by experts in this area is the “deliberate manipulation or use of information by one party on an adversary to influence the choices and decisions that the adversary makes in order for military or strategic gain.”[i] In addition, security strategists identified several terms which manifest IW including hybrid warfare, gray zone warfare, active measures, soft power and public diplomacy.[ii] The difficulty in defining IW could be related to numerous reasons including the rapid development of technology, evolution of the battlespace, development of fourth and fifth-generation warfare, et cetera. Due to the complexity of defining IW, this article will focus on Information Operations (IO) which is heavily entrenched with the concept of IW.

The US Joint Chiefs of Staff Publication 3-13 defines the IO as “the integrated employment, during military operations, of  information  related  capabilities in concert with other lines of operation to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp the decision making of adversaries and potential adversaries while protecting our own.”[iii] The US Department of Defence also identified five pillars of IO including Cyberspace Operations (initially named as Computer Network Operations), Electronic Warfare (EW), Psychological Operations, Operations Security and Military Deception.[iv] To enable to understand the insight of all five pillars of IO, there is a need to examine their application within recent IO and to identify their relevance to the NZ Army.

 Cyberspace Operations

Cyberspace Operations, defensive or offensive, is defined as “the employment of cyberspace capabilities where the primary purpose is to achieve objectives in or through cyberspace.”[v] Cyberspace Operations are cheap and effective operations that are becoming a fast-growing threat worldwide. Many nations see cyber defence investment as a priority to accomplish national security objectives. NATO is also alarmed and is integrating a cyber defence policy as it believes that Cyberspace Operations could be threatening “territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the Parties;”[vi] moreover, it could lead to an invocation of an Article 5 response by NATO: “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all.”[vii]

One of the most notable examples of cyber-attacks was the discovery of the Stuxnet worm in June 2010, dedicated against the Iranian nuclear program. Stuxnet was a joint US-Israeli project, the idea of which was to destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges by triggering them to spin uncontrollably. The attack led to an infection of more than 60,000 computers in Iran as well as many other countries.[viii] Even though NZ is a nuclear-free country, but similar cyber-attacks indicate the danger towards critical infrastructure and need to be studied and considered by the NZ government. Despite being ranked highly globally as best prepared against cyberattacks,[ix] NZ needs to invest heavily in information security. Considering that the country belongs to the Five Eyes alliance, it automatically puts a target on NZ as a whole, including its critical infrastructure.

Electronic Warfare

EW is defined as “military action involving the use of electromagnetic and directed energy to control the electromagnetic spectrum or to attack the enemy.”[x] Within recent operations in Eastern Ukraine, the Russians understood the value of EW, as it allowed them to successfully shut down communication and signal systems and create a zone of blacked-out communications that aided Russian conventional operations. Russia’s use of EW in conjunction with cyber-attacks allows them not only to cease communications but to program false GPS navigation and jam UAS. This would result in luring Ukrainian forces in the wrong direction and blacking out the Ukrainian intelligence, surveillance or reconnaissance.[xi] According to the Russian Military Doctrine, information security is a component of IW evolving importance in developing IW weapons;[xii] hence, Russia invested heavily in EW and used the Ukrainian battlespace as a testing ground for future EW operations, but on a bigger scale. It is essential for the NZ Army to study the elements of Russian EW, especially when contemporary Russian IW is targeting the West.[xiii]

Psychological Operations

Psychological Operations are also known as military information support operations (MISO) in US doctrine, which encompassing “planned operations to convey selected information and indicators to foreign audiences to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately the behaviour of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.”[xiv] In the recent decade, it has been noticed that Russia became one of the leading experts in IO and was actively using MISO. ‘Maskirovka’ is one of the old Russian military terms meaning denial or deception, which in modern days is heavily used through open-source information.[xv] Russian trolls, bots and fake news are deeply integrated within the Internet, television broadcasting, radio and social media. The Russian government created troll factories with numerous fake accounts in social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LiveJournal, Vkontakte, et cetera; their responsibilities lay in spreading disinformation through fake postings and comments. Russian trolls are on duty 24 hours a day, in 12-hours shifts with a daily quota of 135 comments, at least 200 characters long. The international media networks Russia Today and Sputnik serve as an effective tool in spreading Russian disinformation around the world for the benefit of Moscow. Russia Today maintains a budget of over $300 million per year allowing Moscow to broadcast disinformation in several languages including English, German, French, Spanish, Russian, and other Eastern European languages.[xvi] Russia Today and Russian social networks are available in NZ, thus, New Zealanders are vulnerable to MISO.

 Operations Security

Operations Security is recognised as “the process of identifying critical information and analysing friendly actions attendant to military operations and other activities.”[xvii] With the recent introduction of 5G, China anticipated an economic windfall leading the country into incorporating 5G technology at an accelerated rate. The telecommunication companies such as Huawei and ZTE exploited the 5G capacity and soon became an alternative supplier of 5G equipment worldwide with minimal cost.[xviii] However, there is a major concern of Chinese attempts to control 5G mobile telecommunication networks as it may open back doors into Western cyber systems and critical infrastructure. The concerns especially arose with the arrest of the CFO of Huawei, Meng Wanzhou, in Vancouver International Airport due to detection of Wanzhou’s fraudulent business activities with Iranian officials despite US sanctions.[xix] Consequently, NZ Army needs to use critical judgement to enable it to identify what operations have been undertaken by other nations, and what effect these operations can have on the NZ Army?

 Military Deception

The final pillar of IO is Military Deception which is defined as “actions executed to deliberately mislead adversary military, paramilitary, or violent extremist organisation decision-makers, thereby causing the adversary to take specific actions (or inactions) that will contribute to the accomplishment of the friendly mission.”[xx] One of the largest IO of Military Deception in the contemporary world is Israeli’s nuclear policy as their government has never confirmed the presence of nuclear weapons on Israeli territory. This obscurity appeared to be only a deliberate strategy for misleading the world. However, researchers estimate that Israel has approximately 80 nuclear warheads as well as multiple delivery systems.[xxi] Other Military Deceptions were conducted by the Russian government in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine. In 2014, the Russian President Vladimir Putin was distributing false information on Russian special forces, referred to as the ‘little green men’ in Crimea, as well as assured the world that there is no intention of annexing Crimea: “Russia had never intended to annex any territories, or planned any military operations there, never.”[xxii] However, the spread of such deceptive information was necessary for the Kremlin at that time as part of their military strategy, thus, to avoid any intrusion from other nations or NATO.

Considerations for the NZ Army

Hostile nations are using a whole-of-government approach to implementing their own foreign policy goals and IW is an important tool in their toolbox. For this reason, the NZ Army needs to think of the whole-of-government approach for preventing/defeating the threat posed by IW. The NZ Army needs to work closely with other government departments in search of appropriate solutions. The primary capabilities of IW that the NZ Army needs are education, training and exercises. A suggested framework is shown in Figure 1, which consists of three branches of IW capabilities essential for the NZ Army, each of them is related to each other.

Education. The NZ Army needs to maintain a relationship with tertiary institutions. This is necessary to develop a knowledge base of theoretical and technical experts in IW as the groundwork for training NZDF personnel. Additional knowledge could be acquired through NZ military observers being deployed to monitor conflicts involving IW to collect information that may not be available to tertiary institutions. This can be achieved in close cooperation with other government departments such as GCSB and MFAT due to their capacity for direct connections to other international parties. Having a solid knowledge of IW mechanics that are employed by potentially hostile nations, the NZ Army can obtain a robust base for a training process.

Training. The Training category is just as important as Education. It is suggested that training of NZDF personnel could be conducted by the experts in IW such as lectures from tertiary institutions as well as military observers. Another suggestion to strengthen training capabilities is by the enlistment of information technology experts for the Territorial Force. These people are already trained within their everyday civilian roles, their knowledge would be of significant value to the NZ Army. Additionally, the NZ Army could launch an IW program, similar to the Australian Defence Force Cyber Gap Program. The Australian program aims to attract students who are studying or enrolling in a tertiary cyber qualification to participate in the 12-month online program. Successful applicants will be paid their student fees, receive cyber mentoring, cyber work experience and help with job applications. At the end of the course, there is an opportunity of joining ADF as professional experts in the area.[xxiii] In NZ, such programs could be seen as long-term investments beneficial not only for the applicants and NZ Army but to the NZDF and the entire country, as it would raise interest among younger generations that could potentially lead to many advantages to NZ.

Exercises. With the Territorial Force units, the exercises could be focused primarily on EW. The units can practise their skills already gained within everyday civilian roles in combination with the military as well as share their experiences with other military personnel. The other exercises for NZ Army are based around investigations into cyber-attacks within NZDF as well as other government departments. The number of cyber-attacks in NZ is rising rapidly and NZ Army needs to examine how they pose a threat to the NZDF and military security. Due to the nature of fourth and fifth-generation warfare, which involves the whole-of-government approach warfare, the NZ Army should be engaging in wargaming with multiple agencies of the NZ government. This would lead to a broader understanding of the contemporary IW threats and develop a more efficient response to potential challengers involving a whole-of-government approach.

To summarise, IW is becoming an increasingly valuable element of fourth and fifth-generation warfare. IO have shaped the contemporary battlespace as they proved to be cheap, effective and successful in gaining its goals. The five pillars of IO and examples above indicate that jus ad bellum may not be relevant within the contemporary view of warfare as nations use other measures to achieve their political goals, that may not cross the threshold of jus ad bellum but are aggressive and hostile actions.  As IW can relate to either military, civilian or diplomatic stakeholders, and be part of the whole-of-government approach, the NZ Army would benefit from working closely with other government departments and having a clear framework for preventing and overcoming the threats of IW. The NZ Army needs to be prepared for emerging threats that may be non-conventional but still poses a significant threat.

 

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Bilyana, Lilly, and Joe Cheravitch. “The Past, Present, and Future of Russia’s Cyber Strategy and Forces.” Paper presented at the 2020 12th International Conference on Cyber Conflict, Tallinn, 2020.

Brent, Laura. “Nato’s Role in Cyberspace.” NATO Review, 2019, accessed 17 October, 2021. https://www.nato.int/docu/review/articles/2019/02/12/natos-role-in-cyberspace/index.html.

Cheravitch, Joe. “What Translation Troubles Can Tell Us About Russian Information Warfare.” RAND, 2019, accessed 26 October, 2021. https://www.rand.org/blog/2019/10/what-translation-troubles-can-tell-us-about-russian.html.

“Direct Line with Vladimir Putin.” President of Russia, 2014, accessed 19 October, 2021. http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20796.

Farwell, James P, and Rafal Rohozinski. “Stuxnet and the Future of Cyber War.” Survival 53, no. 1 (2011): 23-40.

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Jaitner, Margarita, and Kenneth Geers. “Russian Information Warfare: Lessons from Ukraine.” Cyber war in perspective: Russian aggression against Ukraine  (2015): 87-94.

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 Footnotes:

[i] Information Warfare in the Age of Cyber Conflict, ed. Christopher Whyte, A Trevor Thrall, and Brian M Mazanec (London and New York: Routledge, 2021). 5-6.

[ii] Catherine A Theohary, “Information warfare: Issues for congress,” (Congressional Research Service, 2018, accessed 17 October, 2021). https://sgp.fas.org/crs/natsec/R45142.pdf. 4-5.

[iii] US Armed Forces Joint Stuff, “Joint Publication 3-13: Information Operations,” (Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 2012, accessed 17 October, 2021). https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/jp3_13.pdf. ix.

[iv] “Information Operations Roadmap,” US Department of Defence 2003, accessed 11 October, 2021, https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB177/info_ops_roadmap.pdf.

[v] US Armed Forces Joint Stuff, “DOD dictionary of military and associated terms,” (US Department of Defense, 2012, accessed 17 October, 2021). https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/pubs/dictionary.pdf. 55.

[vi] “Article 4,”  in The North Atlantic Treaty: Washington D.C. – 4 April 1949 (NATO, 2019, accessed 17 October, 2021). https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_17120.htm.

[vii] “Article 5,”  in The North Atlantic Treaty: Washington D.C. – 4 April 1949 (NATO, 2019, accessed 17 October, 2021). https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_17120.htm.; Laura Brent, “NATO’s role in cyberspace,” (NATO Review, 2019, accessed 17 October, 2021). https://www.nato.int/docu/review/articles/2019/02/12/natos-role-in-cyberspace/index.html.

[viii] James P Farwell and Rafal Rohozinski, “Stuxnet and the future of cyber war,” Survival 53, no. 1 (2011). 23-25.

[ix] David Stupples, “What is information warfare?,” (World Economic Forum, 2015, accessed 26 October, 2021). https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/12/what-is-information-warfare/.

[x] US Armed Forces Joint Stuff, “Joint Publication 3-13.1: Electronic Warfare,” (Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 2007, accessed 17 October, 2021). https://www.acqnotes.com/Attachments/Joint%20Publication%203-13.01%20Electronic%20Warfare%2025%20Jan%2007.pdf. GL-9.

[xi] “Russian New Generation Warfare Handbook,”  (Fort Meade: US Army Asymmetric Warfare Group, 2016, accessed 17 October, 2021). https://info.publicintelligence.net/AWG-RussianNewWarfareHandbook.pdf. 17-18.

[xii] Lilly Bilyana and Joe Cheravitch, “The past, present, and future of Russia’s Cyber strategy and forces” (paper presented at the 2020 12th International Conference on Cyber Conflict, Tallinn, 2020). 130-139; Bruce McClintock, “Russian Information Warfare: A Reality That Needs a Response,” (RAND, 2017, accessed 29 October, 2021). https://www.rand.org/blog/2017/07/russian-information-warfare-a-reality-that-needs-a.html.

[xiii] Joe Cheravitch, “What Translation Troubles Can Tell Us About Russian Information Warfare,” (RAND, 2019, accessed 26 October, 2021). https://www.rand.org/blog/2019/10/what-translation-troubles-can-tell-us-about-russian.html.

[xiv] Joint Stuff, “Joint Publication 3-13: Information Operations.”, II-9, II-10.

[xv] Margarita Jaitner and Kenneth Geers, “Russian information warfare: Lessons from Ukraine,” Cyber war in perspective: Russian aggression against Ukraine  (2015). 93.

[xvi] Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews, “The Russian “firehose of falsehood” propaganda model,” Rand Corporation  (2016). 2-7.

[xvii] Theohary, “Information warfare: Issues for congress.” 3.

[xviii] Nicol Turner Lee, “Navigating the US-China 5G competition,” (Brookings Institution, 2020, accessed 18 October, 2021). https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/FP_20200427_5g_competition_turner_lee_v2.pdf. 2.

[xix] “Superseding Indictment,”  (New York: US District Court, 2019, accessed 18 October, 2021). https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1125021/download.

[xx] Joint Stuff, “DOD dictionary of military and associated terms.” 141.

[xxi] Hans M Kristensen and Robert S Norris, “Israeli nuclear weapons, 2014,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 70, no. 6 (2014). 97.

[xxii] “Direct Line with Vladimir Putin,”  (President of Russia, 2014, accessed 19 October, 2021). http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/20796.

[xxiii] “Australian Defence Force Cyber Gap Program,” Australian Government, accessed 19 October, 2021, https://digitalprofession.gov.au/cybergap.