Finnish people have all the prerequisites to be prepared for information influencing and black information operations, says Senior Lecturer Panu Moilanen.
Due to the events in Ukraine, war is now more strongly than ever on the minds of Finns. Images of death, suffering people and destroyed cities come from only slightly more than a thousand kilometres away. Currently, war appears to us as very concrete attrition annihilation warfare. However, it is good to remember that wars can also take place elsewhere than in the real world. Increasingly, digital warfare has become an important part of practically any conflict.
Digitalisation has changed the security environment significantly. There are two ways to impact security digitally. On the one hand, the functions of the digital world can be interfered with technically, in which one often talks about cyber threats. On the other hand, in the digital world it is also possible to influence information and, consequently, the values, attitudes and decision-making of different parties. In this case, we are talking about information operations and information warfare.
In Finland, war and peace are usually seen as a dichotomy: there is either war or peace in a country, and in the last decades – until the start of this year – we talked about a period of “deep peace”. However, the situation has not been that simple. The variety of threats – both military and otherwise – has expanded and diversified already for some time now.
It has long been restless in the digital world, and there is continuously something happening in the information space. In reality, the period of deep peace has been over for years, and now the term has also disappeared from the public discourse.
Instead of deep peace we could talk about “a grey period of instability”, which also impacts Finns. We are fully dependent on the various digital systems and communications, and our daily life has become saturated with digital media: our reality is largely formed and shaped based on the messages and the content we encounter in the media.
In many ways this development has taken place in the shadows, nearly unnoticed. Therefore, it is important to pause to consider what it means in practice.
White and black information influencing
Digitalisation has enabled unprecedentedly efficient and accurate communication. As a result, we Finns are also influenced more actively than ever before. Most of this influencing is normal and acceptable, so-called white information influencing.
A recent example is how the news is saying we will need to save energy in the winter, and we are then given energy-saving tips.
However, in daily life each of us also face – knowingly or unknowingly – hostile, “black” information influencing that can also be called information warfare.
Information warfare can take place through the means of communication but also through, for example, societal, political, psychological, social, economic and military influencing.
Operations are carried out on all levels of warfare: tactical, operative and strategic. Border violations, political threats, military exercises and moving troops around near our borders – these are also part of information warfare.
Finns have good prerequisites to be prepared for influencing through information and black information operations. The education level of citizens is high and plenty of reliable information is available from free and varied media. It is important to keep oneself cool, control one’s emotions and be sufficiently critical. The changed security situation, Finland’s forthcoming NATO membership and changes in the world order will surely increase activity in the information space.
The author is a senior lecturer in charge of the master’s degree programme of security and strategic analysis in the Faculty of Information Technology. He is writing his second dissertation at the National Defence University about information warfare, trust and Finns’ relationship to national defence.
Subscribe to the JYUnity newsletter
Get latest articles from The University of Jyväskylä’s stakeholder magazine into your email. You can cancel your subscription at any time.