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Modern information warfare: analysis and policy recommendations

Hanci Lei (Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 5 August 2019

Issue publication date: 5 September 2019




Information warfare (IW) is a novel and poorly understood threat to the international community, which may be used more commonly as a foreign policy tool in the future. By identifying the key components of modern IW, this paper seeks to formulate policy recommendations for how best to deal with this new threat. The general overview of the topic that this paper provides contributes to current efforts to develop strategies to counter IW operations around the world.


The goal of this paper is to break down the components of modern IW and provide policy recommendations for domestic and international governance on the issue. These recommendations will be based in part of historical initiatives to counter IW and existing literature on cyber governance. Central to the framework used to analyze the cases of Russian and North Korean IW operations are the seven defining features of “strategic” IW established by a 1996 RAND Corporation report, modified to incorporate the importance of cyberspace to cases of IW in the modern day.


Modern IW presents a new, multifaceted threat to states. Because of the value of IW as a tool by weaker states to counter stronger ones and the weakness of existing legal and normative frameworks, use of IW can be expected to be increasingly common. States can take action to promote international governance on the issue and develop policy frameworks for protecting themselves against IW.

Practical implications

IW has historically been a very tricky tactic to define and identify. By analyzing IW’s basic features, this paper provides a framework for breaking down IW into its component parts, which reveals valuable policy implications. Preventative efforts against IW can help restore trust to global information networks and lower the risk of conflict.


Formal scholarship on modern IW and related subjects is lacking in comparison with higher visibility threats. Increased awareness of this issue, especially amongst civilian leaders, can augment global efforts to counter IW.



The author would like to thank Professor John E. Savage of Brown University, Professor Jordan Branch of Brown University and Jerome C. Glenn of The Millennium Project for their help and guidance in the writing of this paper.


Lei, H. (2019), "Modern information warfare: analysis and policy recommendations", Foresight, Vol. 21 No. 4, pp. 508-522.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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