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Cyber security pro: Finland under hybrid warfare attack

Cyber security professor Jarno Limnéll says that hybrid warfare – wherein traditional and unconventional warfare methods are combined – is affecting Finns on a daily basis. The “attacks” are executed on the threshold of war and peace, and Limnéll says the most insidious form of hybrid war is the kind that operates undetected.

Jarno Limnéll
Professor Jarno Limnéll. Image: Yle

”We have to get our heads around the fact that we are targets for a constant and intentional campaign of information influencing,” says Limnéll, a professor at the Aalto University and cyber security chief at Intel Security. “This isn’t something that should be shushed or waved aside.”

Broadly speaking, hybrid warfare refers to a combination of both traditional conflict and newer, innovative approaches to influencing citizens and countries where the lines between war and peacetime are blurred.

“This is the uncertain area between peace, crisis and war that we currently inhabit,” Limnéll says.

Some methods of hybrid warfare, according to the professor, are the continuous and strategic conveying of information (also known as propagation) and electronic or cyber attacks. Information that affects the receiver’s thinking and opinions is the type of warfare Finns are subjected to, Limnéll says, and many other Western countries are also subject to this type of aggression.

Limnéll hastens to remind us that Russia is not the only country in the world to utilise hybrid warfare. Western states also use the same techniques.

Nato raises term over Ukraine

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Secretary-General for the military alliance Nato, was the first to indicate that Russia has been using hybrid warfare in its actions in Ukraine.

Soldiers fighting without insignia, outsourcing war efforts and economic pressure are among the hybrid warfare strategies currently being used in Ukraine, Limnéll lists. Russia has also mobilised its ground forces in a more traditional military move.

The term itself is currently being redefined both by academia and by the international community. Although there is still work to be done, non-violent and innovative elements relying on a digitised world are central to the practice.

”This is why the situation in Ukraine is so challenging: both Ukraine and Russia have undertaken initiatives not even considered warfare by the West,” Limnéll says. “And slowly but surely, these measures have lead to political objectives like territorial conquests.”

A wedge between Finland and the EU

Limnéll describes Russia’s hybrid methods as an attempt to disrupt the political integrity of Finnish policy-makers and to cause dissension between Finland and the European Union. Conflicting statements from Russian politicos and well-timed information strikes both gun for the emotions of leaders.

”Russia is driving a wedge between Finland and the EU by, for instance, strengthening leaders’ conceptions of particular treatment in the relationships between certain countries,” Limnéll says. “In this way, Russia also uses its influence on other EU-countries, making Finland a pawn in an attempt to alter EU decision-making.”

The goals of a country utilising hybrid warfare are the same as in traditional conflicts: to further one’s own country’s political agenda. Not a single shot need be fired for changes in the favour of a specific country to be realised.

Limnéll nonetheless goes on to say that hybrid warfare is not poised to take over for traditional conflict – it just makes warfare more challenging and multifaceted than ever before. Citizens can arm themselves against hybrid warfare with information, he says, and by being source-critical, especially of information found online.

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