Hybrid Warfare Challenges: Disinformation and Manipulation

Donkin Iliya
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Agafonov Aleksandr
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Shitikova Polina
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Abstract: The article deals with challenges of disinformation and manipulation, as it is used in modern hybrid warfare. The aim of the presented work is to provide general overview of the issue, define ways of manipulating information and outline strategies to combat the described challenges. Moreover, the authors focus on presenting the reader with steps, aimed at increasing personal information awareness.

Key words: Hybrid Warfare, Disinformation, Manipulation, Information Awareness, Redundancy

Hybrid Warfare refers to a military strategy that blends conventional warfare, so-called irregular warfareand cyber-attacks with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy and foreign political intervention in other words it can be viewed as a combination of traditional and non-traditional tactics along with simple and complex technologies. This type of warfare:

  • targets vulnerabilities across societies in ways that we do not traditionally think about;
  • intentionally exploits ambiguity, creativity, and our understanding of war to make attacks less visible. This is due to the fact that they can be tailored to stay below certain detection and response thresholds, including international legal thresholds, thus hampering the decision process and making it harder to react to a hybrid warfare attack;
  • remains unseen until it is already well underway, with damaging effects having already begun manifesting themselves and degrading a targets capability to defend itself.

In general, Hybrid Warfare can be revealed and detected through analysis of disinformation campaigns, fake news, cyber-attacks, hacking, conspiracy theories, deep reconnaissance, sabotage, terrorism, espionage, and subversion.[1]

Disinformation in Hybrid Warfare

As hybrid warfare has become more common, there has been a definitive increase in the spread of what is categorized as misinformation, disinformation and malinformation (MDM) where disinformation is false information which is deliberately intended to mislead— information created deliberately to «harm, or manipulate a person, social group, organization, or country».  Disinformation has been a growing threat in the past decade, as social media platforms continue to expand largely unchecked and dominate the news. But as disinformation grows, so do our strategies to identify and battle it, and there are steps that can be taken to mitigate its effects.

Traditionally, disinformation has been identified and measured by focusing on the «production» side of disinformation; or on how much content has been created, «published, shared, or viewed»; or on metrics such as how many bots can be identified on Twitter, Facebook and other social websites. While these measures are effective for identifying sources of disinformation, they do not measure the impact of the information being pushed. While both metrics are important to measure, it is crucial to understand the efficacy of these campaigns.[2]

On the production side of disinformation, the European Union approved in April 2022 a new legislative package to strengthen EUs response to disinformation: the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and the Digital Services Act (DSA), that includes an updated Code of Practice on Disinformation which aims to tackle the spread of disinformation across technology platforms by making the platform owner (such as Twitter, Meta products and etc.) liable for not curbing the spread of disinformation at its root. The Code approaches this by increasing reporting requirements by «very large online platforms» on their work countering disinformation, promoting fact-checking, increasing transparency in political advertising, and more. The penalties for not abiding by these rules may lead to fines of up to 6% of yearly global revenues.

Manipulation in Hybrid Warface

Information manipulation refers to altering data to distort the opponents perception of reality. This can be accomplished using various technologies, such as computer software, for modifying text, pictures, video, audio, and other types of data transmission. The limited data is typically designed by hand so that those in charge can control the image given to the enemy. However, the technologies above are frequently employed to speed up the physical modification process once the content has been decided.[3]

It entails various strategies, tactics, weapons, and defenses. Moreover, many would argue that the information warfare subset of themes described above leaves out critical national security risks. However, we have plenty to keep our military occupied for a long time.

There is little chance to stop an enemy from tampering with Information once they have it. In light of this, there are only two options for defending against information attack. To begin, one might endeavor to prevent Information from being intercepted in the first place. Information protection techniques are most successful in this situation because they prevent the opponent from gaining access to or understanding the Information in it's original state.

The second, arguably more important step in guarding against data manipulation is to keep the tampered data from being reintroduced into the real-time flow of data. Fortunately, there are several methods for accomplishing this, the most frequent of which is redundancy.

Information manipulation is referred to as a semantic attack” by Martin Libicki, who states that a system under semantic attack runs and will be regarded as operating correctly, but it will give responses at odds with reality.” He claims that this happens because those systems rely on an information source, which he refers to as a sensor, for Information about the real world. Therefore, if the sensors can be tampered with, the systems can also be tampered with.

Safeguards against failure might lay in, for instance, sensors redundant by types and distributions, supplemented by a sensible allocation of decision-making power among humans and machines to combat a semantic attack. One can enhance the chances that the proper Information will get through by collecting the same information from many redundant sources. Then, even if the attacker successfully corrupts that data on one communication line, the erroneous data will be detectable since it differs from the picture from the rest of your sources.[4]

Six Steps Towards Becoming a well-informed citizen:

  1. Find ways to become better informed about the key issues facing humanity. (And recognize that many of these sources of information are flawed.) This should be an on-going habit you maintain for the rest of your life.
  2. Explore ideas and perspectives outside of your filter bubble. (More on filter bubbles shortly.)
  3. Challenge commonly held myths and misunderstandings about the world and human societies. The things we think we know and even the things that sound reasonable arent always true.
  4. Develop your own well-reasoned points of view, based on good evidence – and be prepared to change your mind as you encounter new evidence and ideas.
  5.   Find links between the things you are learning about. Also, develop connections between the things you are learning about the world and your local area.
  6.   Find ways to act locally to make a better world. Start with very small steps and build on these.[5]

Results of the Study

All in all it is worth emphasizing that there are plenty of challenges that emerge during the hybrid warfare which can potentially lead to several consequences. Disinformation is one of the most important "long-range weapons” that can be developed by spread of false narratives. It can confuse people and mislead them about the actual military operations. Whereas manipulation is a way of distracting people from existing problems by creating the notion that all stays in good conditions.


Modern word is full of manipulation and disinformation. People can control others’ ideas, desires and definitely opinions. Misinformation is under the conditional umbrella of propaganda and is always negative, that is, it is deliberately false or manipulative information, which always has the goal - to hurt and do it systematically.

People are imposed a false opinion and vision of the situation, which sets them up for negative emotions towards the existing opponent, who may not carry out oppositional actions. Not only may they be surrounded by false information, but it may also be hidden from them under the prism of a beautiful, well-appointed life in their place of residence.

Conflict of interests: the authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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  5. Leonid S. The concept pf hybrid warfare: origins, application, counteraction [Electronic resource] // Katehon. - 2021.

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[5] The concept of hybrid warfare: origins, application, counteraction. URL: