Psychological Operations

The Theory of Transitional Target Defence: A New Approach to Enhancing Cyber Deception


There have been many different approaches to implementing deceptive devices, but it is the contention of this paper that fundamentally every incarnation suffers from the same issue: it remains a deceptive device. As the use of deceptive devices has increased, attackers have become more aware of the threat they pose and have become more adept at detecting deceptive devices. This paper presents a new approach to enhancing cyber deception called Transitional Target Defence (TTD). TTD does not present a deceptive device for an attacker to reconnoitre but rather allows interaction with targets until the exploitation phase. Once the hostile traffic is detected, the attacker is redirected to a deceptive device. The authors discuss the utility of this technique in this paper and the increased complexity of the psychological theatre that comes with it.

PSYOP, CYBER, and Internet Influence: Firing Digital Bullets


With the ubiquitous nature of the Internet, social media, and their continued exponential growth across society, it is necessary to comprehensively understand these platforms to engage threat networks at home and abroad. Undergirding all web-based actions, however, is human behaviour. Therefore, understanding human behaviour and the dynamic range of characteristics, actions, and attributes that are influenced by culture and context, for web-based offensive and defensive actions, is an ever-evolving niche skill. As such, non-kinetic activities and change efforts, especially in the cyber domain, require cross-cultural competence and experience in addition to any cyber capability.

Information Influence in Society’s Information Environment: An Empirical Analysis Using the Grounded Theory


This paper investigates information influence in society’s Information Environment. The Grounded Theory approach was used to collect and to analyse the data. A conceptual framework of the thematic categories and item categories was developed on the basis of empirical evidence and past studies that reflect the findings of the field. The most fundamental components in this conceptual framework were six thematic categories (information influence, information operations, cyber operations, psychological operations, kinetic operations, and deception), their item categories, the items themselves, and the interrelationships between the thematic categories. 

International Humanitarian Law and Cyber-Influence Operation


Cyber-influenc and ‘fake news’ have become common terms due to high profle inci-dents such as alleged tampering in the 2016 US elections.

Rhizomatic Target Audiences of the Cyber Domain


Target Audience Analysis (TAA) is a process of finding suitable target audiences for psychological operations (PSYOPS). Typically, a TAA is a one-way process with some kind of a feedback system. The cyber domain presents a challenge to this type of sequential, linear process by refusing to stay still while the process is being executed, possibly leading to results from yesterday’s data in an environment that no longer exists today. 

Manipulating the Architecture of Cultural Control: A Conceptual Model for Strategic Influence Operations in North Korea


The deep structural and cultural changes taking place in North Korea provide an opportunity to conduct influence operations to shape that country’s culture and society, either to destabilize the government or to prepare the population for a regime change. This paper presents a conceptual model of how contradictions between top down, imposed culture and organic, indigenous culture can be exploited to destabilize the system, and eventually re-pattern the culture.  The process includes the following steps: identification of the cultural type; understanding relevant cultural forms; identification of vulnerable targets; evaluation of the information system; identification of effective elements of persuasion; mapping of the architecture of social control; and introduction of new “attractors” to damage or destroy the constituent cultural myths.

Automated Categorization of Profiles for Psychological Operations: An Analysis of Data and Text Mining Approaches


Influencing one’s adversary has always been an objective in warfare.  To date the majority of psychological influence operations have been geared toward the masses.  A tailored approach of individual targeting is preferred but requires unattainable resources.  This paper investigates whether state-of-the-art data and text mining tools can be used to automate the categorization/segmentation of individual profiles for psychological operations.  Five data and text mining software applications were tested and their results compared with those of a social psychologist.  Using statistical analysis, it was concluded that current data and text mining tools are not mature enough to produce results comparable with those produced by psychologists.

Backfires: White, Black and Grey


Sometimes the use of force can backfire on perpetrators, generating increased support for the opponent. Perpetrators may try to turn this process against their targets, by attributing their actions to the targets, as in black operations, or by using an ambiguous event as a pretext for action. These techniques can be understood as different uses of backfire dynamics, by analogy to white, black and grey propaganda. Various examples are used to illustrate this framework.

Shaping the ‘Information Space’


Perception Management is a key component of Information Operations. This article presents a taxonomy of Perception Management, which is seen as comprising five principal sub-elements: Public Affairs, Public Diplomacy, Psychological Operations, Deception, and Covert Action. While these are traditional activities, the author argues that they generally have not been employed well and in a synergistic fashion by the Western Powers since the Second World War. The article suggests an approach to foreign political-military challenges in terms of ‘Shaping the Information Space’ as an organising principle of policy and the application of power in the international arena. In order to undertake such an enterprise, the Allied nations require improved understanding of the psychology of adversaries and neutrals, as well as one’s own friends and allies.

NATO and Strategic PSYOPS: Policy Pariah or Growth Industry?


In the aftermath of 9/11, among many other changes to its defense establishment, the United States has undertaken a significant re-vamping of its strategic psychological operations (PSYOPS) structure and capabilities.xxxviii Similarly, NATO must now determine if it can adapt and face the realities of the modern security environment -- where current and potential threats to peace will confront NATO through asymmetric means rather than through the use of conventional military forces. Of particular interest in this study, are unconventional attempts to confront NATO via aggressive regional and international perception manipulation.

Becoming the Enemy…and How Not To: Strategic Communications and the Challenges of the War on Terror


This opinion piece argues that there are lessons to be learned from past applications of Psychological Operations and Information Operations for the current practice of Strategic Communications.  The Information War on Terror is going so badly that something must be done.  Already longer than World War Two, western strategic communication directed towards the Arab and Muslim world has failed because the military, while being quite good at tactical operational propaganda, is not by itself equipped to work at the strategic or political level.  This is because western militaries regard information as a support tool.  For Al Qaida and the Taliban it is the main weapon.

The Future Roles of Electronic Warfare in the Information Warfare Spectrum


As the concept of the battlefield changes and the focus shifts towards the dominance of the 'Info-sphere', the role of information and information systems becomes more prominent. As an ever-increasing proportion of the information and communications technology is becoming wireless, electronic warfare (EW) may find new roles and 'targets.' This paper will explore the future roles that EW could play as a discipline within the Information Warfare (IW) construct, and examines possible 'relationships' and influence EW will have on other functional areas of IW, by analysing technological trends in conflicts.

An Information Operations Roadmap for South Africa


The latest arms race can be considered to be information-based, revolving around Information Operations (IO). As with any developing concept, there are innovators, early adopters, and laggards. However, complexities in the constructs of IO result in a number of potential adopters struggling to implement their own brand of IO. A modified Capability Maturity Model is proposed and applied to the case of South Africa. Using guidance from previous studies and publicly available documentation, capability gaps for IO in South Africa are identified. Based on these gaps, a roadmap for developing IO capacity in South Africa is proposed.

Journal of Information Warfare

The definitive publication for the best and latest research and analysis on information warfare, information operations, and cyber crime. Available in traditional hard copy or online.















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The definitive publication for the best and latest research and analysis on information warfare, information operations, and cyber crime. Available in traditional hard copy or online.


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