The relationship between hybrid warfare and cognitive threats studied from the cyber defence point of view

Hybrid CoE organized the fifth Cyber Power Symposium on Hybrid Conflict and Warfare (CPH) on 3 October. This year’s online symposium, entitled ‘The cyber and hybrid aspects of cognitive warfare/superiority’, was organized for the first time together with the European Defence Agency (EDA). It drew experts from 33 Hybrid CoE Participating States, the EU and NATO, as well as from Australia, Japan, Ukraine, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland.

Questions addressed during the event included the role of artificial intelligence and quantum computing in cognitive warfare, possible countermeasures, and the potential need for an additional concept of cognitive defence to counter information, psychological and cyber elements as a part of hybrid defence.

The first panel discussed countering cognitive warfare, especially in relation to the cyber-information-influence nexus and operations that can be carried out within it. Cases from Australia, Austria, Canada, and the USA were discussed. One of the conclusions was that state actors may achieve cognitive superiority by regulation and laws or by educational empowerment.

The second panel focused on the relationship between hybrid warfare and cognitive threats. With the changing international order and rapid technological advances, it is important to respond to new ‘ways of warfare’, including the threats emanating from the cognitive domain.­­­­­

Cognitive superiority can be seen as the goal of modern information and cyber warfare, relying on access to information, pervasive surveillance, personalized persuasion, and new technologies. One of the takeaways from the symposium was that cognitive superiority is nothing new – it is part of or included in hybrid threats, but there is also a cognitive domain. Hence, we must start to think about hybrid threats in a more sophisticated way.

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