The concept of information warfare began as a technology oriented tactic to gain information dominance by superior command and control. This soon developed into a realization of the power of information as both a ‘weapon’ as well as a ‘target’. The importance of information rather than its associated vehicle – information technology − created a situation where influence became a critical factor in conflict. As the nature of conflict changed to being an almost ongoing situation, control over mass communication be-came a high priority task for governments as well as the military. As such, the manipulation of information became an essential function.
Information warfare is primarily a construct of a ‘war mindset’. However, the development of information operations from it has meant that the concepts have been transferred from military to civilian affairs. The contemporary involvement between the media, the military, and the media in the contemporary world of the ‘War on Terrorism’ has meant the distinction between war and peace is difficult to make. However, below the application of deception in the military context is described but it must be added that the dividing line is blurred.
Of course, deception has been an attribute of humans throughout history. Its informal use in war also has a history as long as war itself. However, only in the twentieth century with its formal use by governments and the military did the development of its theoretical base begin. The Soviet Union used Maskirovka to great effect during the Cold War and was first to develop it as an integrated part of normal diplomatic and military procedure (Smith, 1998). It also became a formal part of doctrine in Western militaries in that late twentieth century.
The U.S. Joint Doctrine for Information Operations defines deception as:
Those measures designed to mislead the enemy by manipulation, distortion, or falsification of evidence to induce him to react in manner prejudicial to his interests
However, the Joint Doctrine for Military Deception gives a fuller definition:
Military deception is defined as being those actions executed to deliberately mislead adversary decision makers as to friendly military capabilities, intentions, and operations, thereby causing the adversary to take specific actions that will contribute to the accomplishment of the friendly mission.
A later doctrine from the US Air Force (2005) on information warfare (actually, information operations) refers to ‘influence operations’ as one of the four major components of the information environment (network warfare operations, electronic warfare operations and integrated control enablers are the others). The components of influence operations are psychological operations, military deception, operations security, counter-intelligence, public affairs, and counter-propaganda. All of these activities have one aim: to influence the mind and behavior of the adversary in ways beneficial to the perpetrator. As such, all involve deception to a greater or lesser degree. This is in contrast to a decade earlier where the emphasis was on technology and its use. The objective of deception is to be used with the other tactics to gain ‘information superiority’ where this is defined as “the state that is achieved when a competitive advantage is derived from the ability to exploit a superior information position”. It is attempting to get the adversary to believe what the deceiver wants them to believe for the advantage of the deceiver and the disadvantage of the deceived. It is truly using information as a weapon. Information superiority is the raison d’être of information warfare. The theory of deception was also developed outside the formal doctrinal area. For instance, since the mid-1990’s investigators from RAND examined the use of deception and its theoretical basis and produced a model for deception planning.
In 1991, J Bowyer Bell and Barton Whaley published Cheating and Deception as an attempt to theorize about the nature of deception in its broadest sense. They created a classification of deception types. In it, they speculated that there were two basic types of deception: Level 1; that consisted of hiding the real, and Level 2; this showed the false. Of course, Level 2 is always a part of level 1.
These fundamental types are further divided into six categories. Hiding can be broken into: masking (basically means blending in for example, camouflage), repackaging (where something is given a new ‘wrapping’), and dazzling (which consists of confounding the target for example, using codes). Showing can be broken into: mimicking (this means producing replicas, which have one or more characteristics of reality), inventing (which involves creating new realities), and decoying (which involves misdirecting the attacker).
Information warfare is split into offensive and defensive modes. Deception has its place in the offensive mode although counter-deception is regarded in U.S doctrine as defensive. However, the distinction is somewhat artificial and, as will be illustrated below, it can be used in all the elements of information war-fare.
Information warfare (information operations) consists of various functions. These include defensive activities such as: operations security (this denies knowledge of your own operations to the enemy), counter deception (decreases the effect of an enemy’s deception activities), and counter propaganda or counter psychological operations (which attempts to counter the impact of the enemy’s messages). Offensive activities include: military deception (measures designed to mislead the enemy by manipulation, distortion and falsification of evidence), and psychological operations (measures to influence attitudes and behavior of allies and enemies).
Added to these are the closely aligned Public Affairs and Civil Affairs. Public Affairs is concerned with military/government interaction with the media, whilst Civil Affairs is concerned with those actions needed to influence the relations between the military and the civilian population in a military operation. American sources are used in this paper as they are the most published. For instance, the Australian and United Kingdom doctrines for information operations have a classification of ‘Restricted’.
By definition, information warfare has information and its use as a weapon as the core of its activities. As deception is about limiting access to and manipulation of information, it is a fundamental requirement for successful information warfare. This permeates all its levels: tactical, operational and strategic.
Arquilla and Rondfelt (1996) describe nations as being at different stages in the development of a networked society. They proffer four stages: clan/tribal, institutional, market, and organizational networks. Developed nations such as America, Australia, and the United Kingdom would fit into the latter category. As much of the data storage and processing, and communications is achieved by electronic networks in these nations, digital deception would take prime place. In other less developed nations, other methods would take prominence. In developed and developing nations, the combination of mass media and communication networks has provided a rich, if challenging, environment for information warfare and deception. Ironically, this ‘information rich’ environment makes deception both more and less achievable. The ubiquity of communications makes the dissemination of data much easier. Hence, people have access to various views. However, the context with which this information is interpreted is primarily determined by the mass media that is generally owned by small cartel of interests. It is in this paradoxical world that future deceivers will work.
The theory of deception was also developed outside the formal doctrinal area. For instance, since the mid-1990’s investigators from RAND examined the use of deception and its theoretical basis and produced a model for deception planning