What has hybrid warfare got to do with me?

It may be a term you have not heard before, and one that sounds more relevant to the military, but hybrid warfare is being used by a variety of organisations and governments to achieve different objectives.

To see how this is relevant to you, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Think about the implications and learnings of COVID from a strategic risk perspective. How much broader and far reaching are the issues compared to your traditional risk models?
  2. You likely spend a lot of resources on cyber protection, but how much time do you devote to looking at other ways your organisation can be attacked – challenges of access to goods, markets, and offices for example?
  3. What does the level of uncertainty do to your ability to plan and make effective decisions?

The current situation has shown us that Corporate Risk Management needs to review its failings and scope to create better frameworks to protect organisations going forward.

So, what is hybrid warfare and how is it relevant? It is a mix of conventional and non-conventional methods that cross political, economic, and social boundaries. The latest cyber-attacks, diplomatic provocations, disruptions in trade and economic duress are some of the examples of hybrid warfare.

Aren’t all these areas just a matter for governments and security agencies? Far from it, organisations are currently being challenged by trade tariffs, taxes, supply chain controls, geopolitical instability, increasing insurance costs and other activities that impact the organisation’s ability to carry out its operations.

The various waves of political activism occurring are creating potential risks to organisations from their competitors. By reacting in certain ways, an organisation can ‘interfere’ with its competitors. For example, an insurer refusing to cover coal mines puts pressure on its competitors – how they choose to respond has a bearing on their own business operations and reputations.

Most of all, it is about information. Information is the key element of success or failure. Hybrid warfare makes use of information in a wide variety of ways, as a part of the intelligence cycle, through psychological warfare, manipulation and disinformation on all levels and platforms, from broadcast and social media to how politicians describe key issues.

As Major General Marcus Thompson from the Australian Information Warfare Division puts it, information warfare is, “The contest for the provision and assurance of information to support friendly decision-making, whilst denying and degrading that of adversaries.”

Human intelligence expert with a military and diplomatic security intelligence background, Mario Bekes along with Dr Patrick Scolyer-Gray a Research Fellow in Cyber Security and Decision Making at Deakin University are discussing the various forms of hybrid warfare in a webinar on the 8th of July 2020.

The far-reaching discussions will look at various types of hybrid warfare from information and narrative warfare to lawfare. It aims to challenge organisations to open their minds to non-traditional risks, how they manifest themselves and the uncertainty that is being created amongst the population. This is then applied to developing corporate risk management frameworks for the future and how to manage the information flow.

How can organisations be better prepared for hybrid types of warfare? Can we better utilise human intelligence along with cyber intelligence sociology and psychology to reduce future impacts of crises?

We need to remove the shroud of military terminology and focus on information flows in this increasingly connected world and how to provide effective risk management frameworks that are adaptable, agile and create resilience.

This post was written by Mario Bekes and Dr Patrick Scolyer-Gray