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Awareness, the only way to counter cognitive warfare


Kabul: The nations face a range of challenges in emerging domains of conflict. These domains can arise from the introduction of new and disruptive technologies. The domains of space and cyber, for example, came out of developments in rocket, satellite, computing, telecommunications, and internetworking technologies. The increasingly widespread use of social media, social networking, social messaging, and mobile device technologies is now enabling a new domain: cognitive warfare.

Cognitive warfare means targeting the cognition of the general public and the elites of a society by changing norms, values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors through manipulating public perception.

This type of war is a more evolved, advanced, deeper and broader form of psychological war, which is based on a networked society (with modern media infrastructure) and is carried out by managing perceptions and impressions.

In cognitive war people’s knowledge of the events around them is targeted, in the meantime, the most dangerous part of this war is its human casualties, which in addition to the loss of manpower, causes a person with all his information and cognitive resources to serve the attacking forces, for this reason, the correct way to counter the enemy’s attacks in cognitive warfare is to increase the level of information and public convincing at broad levels.

According to NATO, in cognitive warfare, the human mind becomes the battlefield, and the aim is to change not only what people think, but how they think and act.

The aims of cognitive warfare can be limited, with short time horizons. Or they can be strategic, with campaigns launched over the course of decades. A single campaign could focus on the limited aim of preventing a military decision, or to force the alteration of a specific public policy.

Cognitive warfare integrates cyber, information, psychological, and social engineering capabilities to achieve its ends. It takes advantage of the internet and social media to target influential individuals, specific groups, and large numbers of citizens selectively and serially in a society.

It seeks to sow doubt, to introduce conflicting narratives, to polarize opinion, to radicalize groups, and to motivate them to acts that can disrupt or fragment a society.

With widespread use of social media and smart device technologies, it may make countries particularly unstable societies, vulnerable to these kinds of attacks.

Beside dissemination of false information or fake news, hacking of secret government documents, and publish it into a social media, sometimes can achieve the aims of cognitive warfare. While fake social media accounts and automated messaging “bots” can augment this dynamic.

Our cognitive abilities may also be weakened by social media and smart devices, as it can enhance the cognitive biases and innate decision errors.

The advantage in cognitive warfare goes to one who moves first and chooses the time, place, and means of the offensive. Cognitive warfare can be waged using a variety of vectors and media. The openness of social media platforms allows adversaries easily to target individuals, selected groups, and the public via social messaging, social media influencing, selective release of documents, video sharing, etc.

A proper defence requires at least an increase in the level of public awareness and public convincing at broad levels.

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