Spreading Lies Through the Cyber Domain


  • Thomas Dempsey American Public University System




Information Operations, disinformation, Cybersecurity Operations, Social Identity, Cyber, Psychology


The expansion of Information Operations (IO) over the past ten years has allowed individuals and groups to increase their sphere of influence on a global scale. Nation-state cyber threat actors have increased their presence on social media, building out false personas to influence large populations. This type of activity is difficult to stop due to the availability of social networks on the internet and the ease of creating false personas that can’t be directly attributed to the actor. IO activity has been observed with the Russian cyber activity during the 2016 U.S. Presidential elections and from Russian social media campaigns provoking extremist groups and attempting to cause physical harm, such as the 2017 campaign on Facebook to start a rally and a simultaneous counter rally in front of the Islamic Da’wah Centre of Houston. Although Russia has been observed leveraging this capability, they are not the only global actor in the cyber domain taking advantage of IO. Global threat actors have leveraged social media platforms and blogs to influence the global population and spread propaganda. This type of activity has been seen within traditional warfare using propaganda techniques. With the introduction of the cyber domain into warfare, there is an increased ability to communicate not only to one population but to the global community with the intent to manipulate the masses using IO. This paper examines the Cybersecurity Operations (CO) that have been observed utilizing IO and the psychological impacts they have had in successful campaigns against the United States. This paper argues that with increased influence capabilities in the cyber domain, individuals and groups will continue using IO to support tactical and strategic objectives. Through the available literature, this paper examines the impacts that IO has had on the United States through attempts to manipulate elections and create divides in the nation over the last ten years. This paper leverages the psychology of group processes to analyze the literature involving social media campaigns and the influencing of groups through the lens of social identity theory to provide new insight into mitigating and countering IO.