Hybrid CoE Trend Report 6: The future of cyberspace and hybrid threats

Cyber is one of the domains in which hybrid threats occur, and cyberspace is an enabler of both cyber operations and cyber-enabled information operations. In this Hybrid CoE Trend Report, three current trends of hybrid threats in the cyber domain are identified: an increase in the disruptive use of artificial intelligence; the expansion of the role of cyber during times of crisis; and growth in dependencies between policy and technology. These  trends are examined from the point of view of relevant technological developments and the possibilities for cascading effects.


Trend Report

Highlights trends and theme clusters related to hybrid threats. Provides multiple perspectives on current security challenges and brings forth current academic discourse. Based on the meetings of the Hybrid CoE Research and Analysis function’s expert pools, composed of top-ranking experts from different Hybrid CoE Participating States.

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 5: Trends in China’s Power Politics

The future direction of China, under the increased economic and institutional pressure both domestically and internationally, means that the use of hybrid threats in its modes of power projection are likely to intensify. This Hybrid CoE Trend Report looks at China’s strategic emergence in global affairs by highlighting three interrelated trends which inform the rationale and main determinants of China’s conduct of hybrid threat activity and strategic policy. The Trend Report underlines that:

1) China increasingly asserts its power in areas not strictly economic through a spillover effect;

2)Economic statecraft is the primary practice through which China seeks to advance its strategic interests and

3) Regime preservation remains the chief purpose of Chinese geostrategic statecraft.

China is seeking great power status and it is significantly expanding its global influence. The outbreak of the COVID-19 has underlined the country’s centrality in globalized economic and trade relationships. In this context China will continue to use hybrid threats as force multipliers and coercion tactics to compensate for difficulties the country has been facing as well as to balance under-performing policies and strategies. China deploys a combination of means to secure its influence and control over critical sources of economic growth. The use of ambiguous and ubiquitous modes of operation by China to create confusion to obfuscate meaningful responses will continue to structure the country’s pattern of projection of power.


Trend Report

Highlights trends and theme clusters related to hybrid threats. Provides multiple perspectives on current security challenges and brings forth current academic discourse. Based on the meetings of the Hybrid CoE Research and Analysis function’s expert pools, composed of top-ranking experts from different Hybrid CoE Participating States.

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 4: Trends in the Contemporary Information Environment

In the era of hybrid threats, there have been profound changes to the security environment, and these reflect to the information domain. Disinformation’s structure is rapidly developing and becoming ever more effective. Instead of looking at disinformation as Disinformation 2.0 or Disinformation 3.0, 4.0… changes in disinformation should be analysed as Disinformation h.0. 

The report examines four contemporary trends of change in the information environment which affect disinformation. The trends identified are 1) Fragmentation of the concept of truth, especially as it relates to social trends and new ways in which information flows; 2) Comprehensive changes in the media as an industry; 3) The increasing hegemony of private media platforms that now compete with outlets, which are still referred to as the traditional media; and 4) New technologies that give rise to new tools for interference and influence. 

From the hybrid threat perspective, Disinformation h.0 depicts the confusing mix of strategic messages from state and non-state actors who consider the democratic state system to pose a threat to them. It is combined with advertising from commercial entities, as well as  mis- and disinformation disseminated by aware or unaware social media users. In this environment, the conflicts of popularity and perceptions are beginning to merge with real-life conflicts and divisiveness, leading to increased online and offline social, economic and ideological polarization. Thus, it is of utmost importance, that we follow the changes in the information environment and understand the structures of Disinformation h.0. 

The complete Trend Report can be accessed HERE.


Trend Report

Highlights trends and theme clusters related to hybrid threats. Provides multiple perspectives on current security challenges and brings forth current academic discourse. Based on the meetings of the Hybrid CoE Research and Analysis function’s expert pools, composed of top-ranking experts from different Hybrid CoE Participating States.

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 3: Hybrid threats and the law: Concepts, trends and implications

Almost three decades ago, the end of the Cold War generated a sense of optimism that great power competition and ideological divisions would give way to a more cooperative, democratic and liberal world order. This optimism proved short-lived: civil wars, state failure and ethnic cleansing wrecked hopes for a more peaceful international system. Despite these setbacks, the belief that international institutions could provide a framework for great power rapprochement persisted. More recent developments have shaken that faith.

Over the last decade, the world has entered into a period where the great powers are prepared to assert their interests in a more antagonistic manner. Russia has violated one of the fundamental principles of the post-war international order, the rule against the acquisition of another State’s territory through the use of force, when it occupied and annexed Crimea. China is asserting its interests more vigorously, claiming parts of the South China Sea and declining to accept the award rendered against it in this matter by the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Simultaneously, support for multilateralism is waning. Recent withdrawals from international institutions and agreements, such as the departure of the Philippines from the International Criminal Court and the renunciation of a string of treaties by the United States, including the Iran nuclear agreement, are symptomatic of a growing disillusionment with international norms and processes. Indeed, it seems that the continued full support for a rules-based international order by some of its traditional champions can no longer be taken for granted.

This turn towards more open confrontation and greater unilateralism has come at a time of major technological developments. Technological progress has put greater destructive power than ever before into the hands of non-State actors. It has also opened up new avenues for foreign interference and subversion in the form of fake news, election meddling and cyber espionage. As a result, modern societies have become more vulnerable to acts of terrorism and to hostile influence and intervention.

Overall, two mutually reinforcing trends are at work here: strategic competition has become more intense and has taken on novel forms, aided by new technologies, while the norms, institutions and processes intended to keep geopolitical rivalry in check have come under increasing pressure, to the risk of unravelling.

To some, these developments merely demonstrate that the idea of a rules-based international order is an illusion. Great powers have always prioritised the national interest over international rules and will continue to do so. To others, these developments are a cause for redoubling efforts to strengthen multilateralism.

What is beyond doubt is that these trends pose significant challenges to the international rule of law. The turn to greater antagonism has brought selective compliance and serious violations of fundamental principles of international law. The use of new technologies and platforms, including cyber and social media, has raised difficult questions about how the existing rules apply in these fields. Adherence to international norms by law-abiding societies has created vulnerabilities that less scrupulous players are able to exploit. Meanwhile, key actors pursue competing visions of international order: transactionalist approaches compete with multilateralism, while liberal ideals clash with sovereignty-focused Statism.

For all these reasons, today, the content, meaning and application of international rules is fiercely contested — not just among States, but by a growing number of actors in a wide range of fora, including in the information sphere. International law has emerged as a critical subject, instrument and domain of strategic contestation.

It is against this background that the Research and Strategic Analysis team at the Hybrid Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE) held a workshop at the University of Exeter in April 2019 to identify the key trends affecting national and international legal resilience in an era of hybrid threats. The trend-mapping undertaken at this workshop was the first step in a project designed to assess and address potential legal vulnerabilities that could be exploited by hostile actors.

Prior to the workshop, experts from a variety of backgrounds were asked to provide a brief outline of the legal trends they consider most important in their field. As a result of these written contributions and the discussions held at the workshop itself, the Hybrid CoE Research and Strategic Analysis team identified the following themes and trends that affect the legal resilience of our societies:

  • law as a strategic instrument
  • law as a hybrid threat
  • legal grey areas
  • legal fault lines and interfaces.

The remaining sections of this report explore these themes and trends in greater detail. They are meant neither as a definite study of the subject nor as an exhaustive list of the legal challenges that the current security environment presents. Rather, they are offered as food for thought and to provide direction for further work.


Trend Report

Highlights trends and theme clusters related to hybrid threats. Provides multiple perspectives on current security challenges and brings forth current academic discourse. Based on the meetings of the Hybrid CoE Research and Analysis function’s expert pools, composed of top-ranking experts from different Hybrid CoE Participating States.

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 2: Western Balkans

The Western Balkan region has historically been a battlefield of power politics. Great powers have been competing for territory and influence, aiming to promote their values, influence the course of events, gain the loyalty of the populations, and establish a foothold in the region. The region comprises a “patchwork” in the sense that different religions and empires have left their mark on its history, which is reflected in a very heterogeneous population both within and between states. With its rich mix of Orthodox and Catholic Churches and Islamic religions, the region as a whole remains European. Today, a struggle for influence is being waged between the West, namely the EU, the US and NATO, Russia, and increasingly China and some Gulf States, all of which have different strategies and objectives in the region. It is important to note that Turkey has its own strategic interest in the Balkans and is an increasingly important player there.

When examining the Balkans through the hybrid threat lens, the region looks particularly vulnerable to activity relating to hybrid threats. Hybrid threat activity targets democratic states and those states where the democratization process is ongoing. A hybrid threat is a Western concept depicting the threat that democratic states face in the 21st century. The activity seeks to exploit the systemic vulnerabilities of democratic systems. This means that countries in the process of democratizing are especially vulnerable. Furthermore, hybrid threats also appear in places where there is geopolitical competition and strategic interests fostered by actors that oppose each other.

In the Report, three trends will be described: Attraction–Rejection (external relations), Healing–Pain (regional and internal), and Stability–Instability (security concerns). All three trends include two opposing lines that run parallel. This aptly depicts the complex situation in the Balkan region. Different dichotomies are always used by those behind hybrid threat activity. These trends highlight the very vulnerable seams of the societies in the Balkan region. When the status competition and economic interests of outside actors are added to the mix, the Balkan region becomes a target highly prone to hybrid threat activity.

The report is an outcome of two Hybrid CoE Balkans Expert Pool meetings. Eleven participating states were represented by academic experts who assembled to discuss trends related to the Western Balkans. They were asked to identify key trends in the region in order to assess potential threats, vulnerabilities and opportunities that could be exploited by hostile actors to destabilize the region and challenge the EU.

The analysis is based on the written contributions of experts and the workshop’s roundtable discussions held between experts and practitioners. The report is a product of Hybrid CoE and hence does not necessarily represent the views of any expert or practitioner that contributed to the content and attended the workshop.


Trend Report

Highlights trends and theme clusters related to hybrid threats. Provides multiple perspectives on current security challenges and brings forth current academic discourse. Based on the meetings of the Hybrid CoE Research and Analysis function’s expert pools, composed of top-ranking experts from different Hybrid CoE Participating States.

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 1: Putin 4.0 Trends – Is there anything new?

Russian politics is often characterized with the words continuity and change. When looking at trends relating to Russia and analysing the implications of these trends for Western countries and especially for Hybrid CoE’s member states, as well as for EU and NATO members, both continuity and change need to be kept in mind. If there is continuity, what does it mean in the current situation and for the future? Does it automatically imply more of the same? If there is change, what are the implications, how should we adapt to them and under- stand them, and how will they affect the future?

This report looks at the main trends affecting Putin’s fourth term as President of the Russian Federation. Many of the trends are continuations from previous years, while others started during Putin’s third term. This report is not suggesting that major changes are on the horizon; however, existing trends may have significant implications for the future. In Russian strategic planning, long-term perspectives are significant but often ignored. Even continuity can express itself in different ways depending on time, opportunity, events and context.

Five trends are duly identified in this report:

I. Non-institutional delegation of policy-making and outsourcing, II. Growing tensions within the Russian ruling elite in the run-up to 2024, III. Economic policies in Putin’s Russia in 2018–2024, IV. Strate- gic solitude and the effects of the strategic culture of the military and security services, V. Pretending to be a global power by reaching out to non-Western partners.


Trend Report

Highlights trends and theme clusters related to hybrid threats. Provides multiple perspectives on current security challenges and brings forth current academic discourse. Based on the meetings of the Hybrid CoE Research and Analysis function’s expert pools, composed of top-ranking experts from different Hybrid CoE Participating States.

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Cyber

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 6: The future of cyberspace and hybrid threats

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Hybrid influencing

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 5: Trends in China’s Power Politics

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Hybrid influencing

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 4: Trends in the Contemporary Information Environment

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Hybrid influencing

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 3: Hybrid threats and the law: Concepts, trends and implications

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Hybrid influencing

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 2: Western Balkans

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Hybrid influencing

Hybrid CoE Trend Report 1: Putin 4.0 Trends – Is there anything new?

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