Information Warfare


On Thursday, October 6, 2022, the committee adopted the following motion: That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee undertake a study on Cybersecurity and Cyberwarfare that includes, but is not limited to:

· The evolving sophistication of threats associated with cybersecurity and foreign actors’ capabilities to hack, disrupt, and dismantle means of communication, power grids, databases, and other critical infrastructure, that should include:

· The full capabilities of advanced countries to conduct cyberwarfare and what that might look like during conventional, unconventional and hybrid warfare; what Canada and its allies are doing to attract and retain talent in state cybersecurity to defend Canada against foreign cyber-threats;

· The threat of non-state actors to our cybersecurity; and the role of individuals and the private sector in cybersecurity;

· That the committee hold a minimum of 4 meetings; the Committee invite representatives of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence, and the Communications Security Establishment to appear at the first meeting; that the Committee report its findings and recommendations to the House; and that, pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee request the Government table a comprehensive response to the report.


Changing demographics, resource competition, environment change, globalization, economics, governance, urbanization, competitive geopolitics, the unprecedented advancement in science and technology, are significant trends shaping the future security environment. These trends are developing rapidly along a converging timeline to create emergent effects, threats and competing opportunities. Cyber is the nervous system that connects all critical infrastructure sectors and is key to Canada’s national security and prosperity.

Cyber is also the domain where the interests, values, norms and strategy of the Western liberal democratic vision of open networks and Internet freedom, is countered by alternative models posed by states seeking to restrict and control the Internet along nationalistic boundaries. Canada’s adversaries will continue to weaponize information and seize vital high ground as part of grand strategies for supremacy and dominance of the Information Domain. Recognize that, cyberspace is owned, operated and defended by industry.

Governance poses significant challenges in a rapidly globalizing world. The power-shift has been particularly acute in the information domain and has precipitated a re-adjustment of Westphalia models towards a new construct. The principle of state regulation are no longer as relevant because the problems they addressed change with the new technologies. Hence, the centre-of-authority for cyberspace has migrated. It is less about imperial power and more about multinational corporations, non-government organizations, transnational criminal organizations, philanthropy and social agency.

As General Dwight D. Eisenhower once said that “if you truly want to understand the problem, you need to make it bigger.” And when it comes to cyber threats, foreign disinformation, influence, and interference , we have been admiring this problem as it has grown to infodemic proportions. Patching and praying as best practice, reacting and responding to incidents with emergency management and silence. We have established the breach on information systems and sovereignty as the starting point to a strategy, thus ensuring disaster continuity and allowing norms of bad behaviour to reach the threshold just below armed conflict. A doctrine of restraint has lead to increased aggression and emboldenment from our adversaries. Resiliency is important, but part of the answer is to defend-forward with information peacekeeping.

Meanwhile, Canada’s allies have adopted a strategy of Persistent Engagement; requiring continuous execution of full-spectrum information operations to contest an adversary objectives and deny superiority. This involves an anticipatory proactive campaign focused on defending-forward to impose cumulative costs on the adversary and establish norms of behaviour. Persistent Engagement requires a robust and foremost sovereign industrial capability to provide intelligence and sustain an active operations.

In the era of strategic competition, the war on truth will be the greatest challenge of our lifetime. A 1993 white paper on information warfare by the Canadian Department of National Defence, discussed semantic warfare and introduced the concept of information peacekeeping - connecting the concepts of synaptic and semantic warfare. Countering cognitive warfare requires a tight integration of open source intelligence, cyber and influence operations.

The contest to control and influence the fabric of cyberspace is as significant as the Manhattan project. Russia may be the dark master of disinformation, deception and disruption, but China seeks to gain increasing economic and political advantage through espionage, interference and malign influence to weaken adversaries' resolve to confront it. China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will shift the balance of economic technological and military global power while their Three Warfare’s Strategy encompasses media or public opinion warfare, psychological warfare and legal warfare. This presents a tangible direct threat to Canadians.

Foreign militaries and their paramilitary proxies have overrun networks of importance to Canada, purposefully interfered critical infrastructure, influenced and subverted the democratic process. Criminal enterprises are operating with the duplicity of these same states.

Meanwhile, Russian state-run troll farms have been implicated in: antagonizing polarized discussions online, undermining liberal democracies, interfering in elections, stirring-up the anti-vax movement, climate change deniers, sowing fractured narratives, violently attacking Canadian-based organizations, inciting protest in the heart of our Capital, and spraying a fire hose of falsehoods around the safety of 5G to sabotage industrial growth of Canada. The Infodemic has killed people as the CBC reported that COVID-19 misinformation cost at least 2,800 Canadian lives and cost $300M. Full-spectrum informationaized warfare is upon us.

The recent joint report by the Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Data, and Conflict (CAIDAC) investigated Russian weaponization of Canada’s far-right and far-left.[1]These communities in Canada are increasingly polarized and their rhetoric has been shifted from differences over policy to framing opponents as enemies who pose an existential threat to Canada.

Researcher Marcus Kolga writes that the Russian government continually monitors Western societies for divisive issues to exploit. Once such issues are identified, Russian mouthpieces and proxies inject and amplify these narratives in our information environment to intensify political divisions.[2]

Proxy sites play an important role for disinformation. The US State Department identified the Montreal-based Global Research platform as major Kremlin-aligned proxy amplifying Russian propaganda and disinformation. The CBC reported that Global Research, “offers an ever-expanding collection of conspiracy theories, such as the myth that the 9/11 attacks and COVID-19 pandemic were both planned in order to control the population. The website also hosts articles experts have attributed to a Russian spy agency.”

The unfortunate truth is that in many foreign jurisdictions, industry and transnational criminal paramilitary organizations such as Russia’s Wagner Group, form an integral part of a given nation’s military, intelligence and disinformation apparatus. Our adversaries finance spying through industrial facilitation (letters of mark) and steal intellectual property for their own industries while criminals profit from the exchange.

Cyberspace has clearly emerged as a strategic centre-of-gravity for renewed great power struggle, prompting adversaries to conduct a range of malicious cyber activities aimed at achieving competitive advantage, influencing and harming Canadian interests. They do so under the protection of anonymity. Attribution will likely remain the hardest problem for national security, but it is also the most necessary for effective deterrence, active cyber defence, and as a legal imperative for any effective countermeasure. For example, persistent engagement is a grand strategic approach to cyberspace intended to counter and contest adversary gains through agreed competitive interaction in cyberspace short of armed conflict, as opposed to spiralling escalation. This strategy requires foreign intelligence, attribution and targeting at its core.

In the future, Hostile Intelligence Services and militaries with their industry, proxies and criminal collaborators will continue to exploit, interfere with and influence Canadian interests domestically and abroad using cyber as part of a broader hybrid warfare campaign. Cyberspace amplifies disinformation. Canada’s solution will require intelligence, attribution and targeting, with credible deterrence, swift, consequential and coordinated joint response by both government and industry. Similarly, establishing norms of behaviour will need to be a shared effort with the private sector and civil society.

The future will see the continued diffusion of power and influence from nation-states to non-traditional actors, particularly in the information domain. Industry owns the much of the terrain, technology and talent, and has been decisively engaged on the front lines, in multiple jurisdictions and within contested space, for decades. Thus, has developed considerable intelligence and battle-hardened information defence capabilities as a result.

Cyber will be the most significant catalyst for change in the future and will be at the centre of acute transformation of national security. Governments around the globe are undergoing their own dramatic digital transformation, adjusting to adaptive dispersed operations on a new terrain, and an rapidly expanding attack surface, while relying on civilian command, control, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance infrastructure. Bytes are as core to the business as bullets and battleships.

National governments, militaries and intelligence agencies, if they are unable to adapt to power-shifts accelerated by digital empowerment and open data, will find themselves overcome by non-state actors and adversaries usurping control of the information domain.

While traditional agencies have remained mostly closed environments, commercial intelligence organizations have the benefit of being infinitely scalable using secure cloud computing, crowdsourcing and big data fusion powered by artificial intelligence. Industrial power in the information domain will continue to grow and challenge traditional models for national security and defence. As we have seen in the Russian-Ukraine conflict, the Russian proxies will conduct more military-like cyber and intelligence operations independently and in cooperation with the state, in order to counter pacing threats. The Canadian Security Intelligence Services (CSIS) explains that in the evolution of state power in cyberspace and intelligence the “oscillation in the balance of power may be peaking, but never before could a dozen people in their pyjamas meaningfully annul the monopoly on the use of force.”

Clearly, the government, as the national guarantor of Peace, Order and Good Government (POGG), has a mandate to address threats to national security and prosperity, and a role in protecting citizens by identifying and prosecuting actors through law enforcement, active defence, counter-influence, counter foreign interference or conducting military-style persistent engagement. Notwithstanding, the intelligence and security industry, service providers and platform owner-operators of cyber space are in unique position to detect malicious activity at scale, identify bad actors and take quick and effective action. Commercial intelligence services can hunt and pursue actors anywhere on the planet. The private sector has been fighting for truth and human rights. It is worth highlighting that, disinformation is uniquely discovered and countered by the open source intelligence community.

Competition, conflict and war between states is occurring on cyber terrain owned, operated and controlled by the private sector – making multi-stake-holder engagement for national security and defence essential. We have seen a corresponding rise of both open and commercial intelligence and the dominance of cyber, soft power and influence in global affairs, national security and military power. Commercial intelligence-as-a-service has the potential to deliver unique tailored intelligence fast, precise, accurate and affordable to both public and private sectors. It is also easy for industry to cooperate across industrial partners and form new ones, cultivate sources and provide data proximity-at-scale, share sensitive intelligence at the speed-of-cyber, and agree to take collective action.

This US Active Cyber Defense Certainty Act opens a means and a market to achieve the right effects for industry in trusted partnership with governments. Canadian industry is already conducting intelligence, cyber and counter-influence operations directly for allies like the USA against sophisticated adversaries.

As is playing out in Ukraine, countering cyber and cognitive warfare will require equitable partnerships with industry and the development of a Canadian sovereign capability.

We foresee a continued weaponization of information by nationalized industrial capacity, the build-up of offensive capabilities of nation states and a consolidation of darkweb territory by transnational crime that is supported by adversary states. Ultimately leading to increased competition and conflict in contested space, thus raising the threshold of armed conflict. Disinformation storms by Russia raise the risk of strategic miscalculation by nuclear powers.

Canada will need to partner with and invest in, a strong and sovereign intelligence and cyber defence industrial base in order to compete with adversaries and remain relevant on the global stage. Defending national interests and those of industry are mutually inclusive. National security and prosperity is a team sport, and what is clear is that industry and government need to collaborate intentionally in information operations.

[1] Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Data, and Conflict (CAIDAC), by the University of Maryland College of Information Studies and Digital Public Square March 2023 - Enemy of my enemy – investigated Russian weaponization of Canada’s far right and far left to undermine support to Ukraine [2] Marcus Kolga, “Confusion, Destabilization and Chaos: Russia’s Hybrid Warfare Against Canada and Its Allies,” Canadian Global Affairs Institute, October 2021.

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