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Definition: information warfare


(1) The distribution of a cultural, political or religious point of view that is aimed at discrediting and scandalizing opposing thought. See disinformation and social media.

(2) Also called "cyberterrorism" and "cyberwarfare," information warfare refers to cyberattacks that create havoc on a large scale. Some examples are disrupting the computers that manage stock exchanges, power grids, air traffic control, telecommunications and defense systems. Viruses, Trojans and denial-of-service attacks are part of the information warfare arsenal, and they get more sophisticated every year.

The first book to deal with the subject was "Information Warfare: Chaos on the Electronic Superhighway," by Winn Schwartau, written in 1994 just as the Internet was being commercialized. Published in 2012, "Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security" by Richard A. Clarke and Robert K. Knake is an eye-opening book on the subject.

Before a Shooting War
Information warfare is increasingly considered as the first offensive before the start of a physical attack. The military in many countries have full-time cyberwarriors on the payroll, because the more successful a cyberattack on an early warning defense system is, the greater the success of the real attack. According to "Cyber War," North Korea may have as many as a thousand hackers stationed in China, working on knocking out systems in South Korea and other countries. See virus, Trojan, cyberattack and denial-of-service attack.