Weaponized Information:

Everyone keeps talking about the Russian attacks during the 2016 United States presidential election. One of the things that you may not know about these attacks is that they included three different dimensions: cognitive, informational, and physical.

The truth is that both informational and physical spheres tend to be quite known. After all, we are all well aware that hackers have been trying to gain unauthorized access to both networks and computers and steal the information they find. However, the cognitive sphere is a bit more unknown. Nevertheless, it is probably the most important dimension of the three.

The Cognitive Attacks.

While we don’t like hackers, at least, we know how they do it and why. However, the cognitive dimension integrates an unknown path. After all, these are the tools that are used to target people’s perceptions and consequent behaviors. This is exactly the reason for the indictment of Russian military personnel and civilians since they used online tools to influence American’s political views and their votes.

The Weaponized Information

More and more observers are already suggesting that the use of these tools for espionage and disinformation are already a form of weaponized information.

While some people believe that this is a different form of war, the truth is that it is the same but using the latest technologies as the main advantage.

Just think of marketers, for example, who want to sell a specific product. Marketers can use the sponsored content as well as manipulate search engines to get more visibility and, therefore, more sales. If you transport this idea to governments, you can see that this what they are doing. They are using online tools to pursue their agendas. They are hacking a complete system by using social engineering on a grand scale.

The Same Goals But Using New Techniques

Returning to the Russians, they created many different false social media accounts where they assumed their roles as political activists. They went ahead with the scheme and managed to be associated with the Tennessee Republican Party. While they created different accounts, just one of them had more than 100,000 followers. But why did they needed them?

Well, it’s simple. Since everyone has a presence in social media, this is the more evident place to attack. So, they constructed these social media accounts to distribute their propaganda.

While this is just an example, the reality is that conspiracy theories and fake information can start anywhere in the world and can affect all of us.

No matter how small they start, they are able to gain a huge number of followers who engages with their content and it continues to be shared.

The Russians attack was very well-thought. The way they were able to use the accounts of local news organizations was genius. As you know, people trust both local as national news sources. They were even to pass legitimate local news stories for years while they were growing their number of followers.

#contentweapons, Content Weapons

J. Michael Stattelman