Cyber Operations in Peace and War: A Framework for Persistent Engagement


  • Brett van Niekerk Durban University of Technology and the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership, Stellenbosch University



Cyber warfare, Influence operations, Information operations, Information warfare, Persistent engagement


During 1990s, the concept of information warfare (IW) and information operations (including cyber operations, psychological operations, and electronic warfare) could be conducted with varying intensity across all stages of peace and conflict. At that time, many of the concepts related to cyber operations were still hypothetical. Subsequently, conflicts and competition between states have demonstrated the capabilities and limitations of cyber operations. Research emerging in 2022 by multiple authors demonstrate the limitations and usage of offensive cyber operations and maintaining a sustainable military cyber capability, as well as proposing alternative models for conflict in cyberspace. Alongside this, there has been increased attention on the impact of ICTs on international security and the responsible behaviour of nation-states in cyberspace. There is still ambiguity and different perspectives on the application of international law in cyberspace. This uncertainty disrupts the original models of IW and warfare, which assumed clear distinctions amongst the conflict stages. Both the discourse of ICTs in international security and recent conflict necessitate a reconsideration of the decades-old view of IW in times of peace, war and the grey zone in between. This paper proposes a framework for the roles of cyber operations across the stages of conflict based on contemporary perspectives on the utility of cyber operations as well as practical examples. In rethinking the IW model, a multidisciplinary view is required, considering the technical, legal, social and international security perspectives.

Author Biography

Brett van Niekerk, Durban University of Technology and the Security Institute for Governance and Leadership, Stellenbosch University

Prof Brett van Niekerk (PhD) is an associate professor at the Durban University of Technology, chairs the IFIP Working Group on ICT in Peace and War, and is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Cyber Warfare and Terrorism. He is CISM certified, with over 80 publications and numerous presentations.