Influencing conflicts with IT-weapons: The possibility of non-state actors influencing the course of a conflict


  • Grennert Josefin
  • Tham Magdalena

Publish date: 2002-01-01

Report number: FOI-R--0263--SE

Pages: 47

Written in: Swedish


In this report the use of information technology by non-state actors during an on-going conflict in which at least one part is a state, is analysed. The main question posed is: What security policy related consequenses on the course of a conflict in which at least one part is a state, can follow if other actors than states, on their own initiative, interfere in high politics situations by using information technology? Recent research show that conventional conflicts increasingly are followed by cyber attacks. Adherents on the parties in a conflict may want to show support and do so by using the means available to them. Up to date, cyber attacks have in large been a source of irritation and even if the cost has been high, in terms of money andwork, hiuman lives have never been in danger. However, if attacks are coordinated and directed at critical infrastructures there is a potential for them to become far more devastating. In the long run IT-attacks may even have an influence on a state´s ability to deal with security policy. In the report a number of examples of politically motivated system break-ins are presented, in which nonstate actors use IT-weapons, in parallel to state actions in conflicts. One recent example is the increasing cyber activity that followed on the terrorist attack against the U.S. in September 2001. Other studied cases are China and USA during the spy plane incident 2001, Israel and Palestine during 2000-2001 and the NATO-countries and Serbia during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.