General Studies Paper 3 (Security Issues): Information Warfare

Information Warfare

IAS Junior Mains Answer Writing June-Sep 2019 Schedule (Click Here)


Syllabus: General Studies Paper 3 (Security Issues)


‘The information revolution has led to the easy flow and manipulation of information; this has led to the rise of the idea of information warfare.’ What do you understand by information warfare? Enumerate steps taken by India in this domain and suggest steps to prepare India for information warfare.



In the 21st century the familiar form of warfare in which physical damage is meted out against the opponent’s military forces and infrastructure has become only one form of attack. Instead, states are increasingly launching non-lethal attacks against an enemy’s information systems – this is the rise of information warfare.


Information warfare

Information has now become critical in many spheres of human activity, which in turn has two sides. One is that efficiency and effectiveness have increased and the other is that with greater dependence on information for increasing the output, vulnerability to a disruption in the flow or quality of information has also increased. This scenario has given rise to the idea of information warfare.

  • In essence, information warfare is a war where information is the enabling tool and also has the potential to lead to disabling.
  • The information warfare can be of different forms like protection, manipulation, degradation, and denial of information.
  • Although the basic objectives of information warfare remain the same whether it is aimed at the military or society, the methods differ to an extent against the military.
  • Information warfare could consist of command and control warfare (C2W), intelligence-based warfare (IBW), and electronic warfare (EW).
  • Against society, it would primarily consist of info-economic warfare and cyber war. Common denominators of information warfare for the military and society would be psychological warfare and computer hacking.

Individually targeted advertisements are being used commercially to influence our buying choices. This medium can also be used to inflame passions, and force a change in strategic decisions.

  • Recently firms like Aggregate IQ and Cambridge Analytica, which have been credited with using AI-targeted advertisements on social media to help swing the Brexit referendum and the US presidential elections.
  • Cyber propaganda has gained momentum in recent time. Best example is during the Doklam conflict.

Information warfare approach

  • The main aim of information warfare is targeting the human mind of the enemy/adversary (military and civil) by denying, degrading, delaying, disrupting, or manipulating the flow (quantity and quality) of information to it.
  • When the human mind is deprived of accurate and timely information, it is likely to respond in a sub-optimal manner thereby taking decisions that lead to inadequate, incorrect, or even no action at all.

Steps taken by India in the fight against information warfare

  • Government is planning to create a new tri-service agency for cyber warfare. The Defence Cyber Agency will work in coordination with the National Cyber Security Advisor.
  • Under pressure from government policy against the spread of fake news and misleading information, Whats App has developed a machine learning algorithm which will detect fake news.
  • Government is also working in the domain of public awareness, on different platforms the government is working to combat information warfare by making users aware of the problem and its possible impacts.
  • Government has recently introduced the new information warfare wing in the Army.


Way Forward

  • Government should not violate the fundamental right of privacy of citizen to fight information warfare; there is a need of an institutional mechanism by law so that the privacy of users along with information and national security will be balanced.
  • Create a National News Commission with powers & autonomy on par with the Election Commission and Supreme Court. Fund them and staff them with a sufficient number of experts who will constantly be combing through news articles and messages forwarded through different channels.
  • Supporting tech companies and start-ups so that with AI and machine learning algorithm cases of propaganda, fake news, foreign intervention in information, posts, news can be detected
  • The government should bring on all stake holders; self-regulation should act as first filter against information propaganda, fake news at source and instruments of mass communication.
  • Empowering citizens through creating awareness and social media literacy so that they can differentiate between propaganda and truth.



The concept of information war appears to be well understood the aspects of it are not being addressed together, and such thinking could lead to gaps in our security. Governments have failed to fully grasp the vulnerability of electronic communications and the enormous risks this poses to critical infrastructure, transport, and the safety of civilians. We need to better understand the full scope of information warfare as it evolves, identify where we are most vulnerable, and then establish a single point of responsibility to implement defence mechanisms. 


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