The most radical event on cyber-enabled information warfare, ever7 minutes read

So, the think tank SOFWERX is backed by the US Special Operations Command. It organised, what could possibly be, the best event on cyber-enabled information warfare, influence operations and disinformation, ever — Radical Speaker Series: Countering Weaponized Information. It’s amazing that tacticians of the USSOCOM are thinking at that level!

I documented most of the conference videos in a Twitter thread, which is pasted below as a single article.👇 Also, here’s the Thread Reader link of the same coalesced thread.

Oh man! @SOFWERX, a think tank supported by 
@USSOCOM‘s J5 Group, creates “a high rate of return on collision for all participants.” They held, what is possibly, the most radical event on cyber influence operations I’ll be posting some details

Dr. @DavidPerlman, an engineer-turned-cognitive-scientist, believes that those studying cognitive bias in influence operations are most prone to it! And he used the F-word.😂

.@DavidPerlman‘s “prolog on cognitive bias.” Reminds me of what F. Scott Fitzgerald had to say: “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”

.@DavidPerlman: “Red-team your own brain.” Brilliant!

@DavidPerlman: You know why the 419 scam emails sounded dumb? Because the scammers can only engage people who’re “dumb as dirt” guaranteeing faster turnaround times. And so, RU infoops targeted the most “gullible nuts.”

.@DavidPerlman: Stretching the convex hull of the Overton Window. Start with door-in-the-face (extreme positions) instead of foot-in-the-door to legitimise the fringe.

.@DavidPerlman: This multidimensional space is the battlefield…this abstract space of ideas. Adversaries are now able to visualise at that level. “Dimension reduction” doesn’t get headlines like micro-targeting did, but Cambridge Analytica was doing it

.@DavidPerlman: “Counter-propaganda is propaganda.” Reason why fact-checking never works & sites like @AltNews grind within their own echo chambers. Corroborates @medialab‘s study: lies travel faster, wider. Before 🇮🇳 gears up for infowar, a Smith-Mundt Act may be necessary

2nd speaker: @krypt3ia. Patient zero of 80s disinfo Op. Infektion (“AIDS was created by US”) was an Indian paper on Soviet payroll. @Vikram_Sood did mention dozens of 🇮🇳 media houses co-opted by CIA & KGB in his latest book…

Takeaway from @krypt3ia: Algorithmic precision, fancy graphs & data-driven insights aren’t going to help. @DavidPerlman too talked about false positives. It’s still about the human component: the psycho-social factors. Hybrid modelling instead of single threaded data denial model

3rd speaker, @bodaceacat: “Info ops are social engineering at scale,” with virtual actions complementing real ones. Hmm…kind of like how all cyber ops are kinetic at the cascading scale of causality. She displays savant-like brilliance. Loved that she used the f-word, too

.@bodaceacat: Cognitive ‘attack surfaces’ grouped by type (we’re not supposed to read this). Attackers have just explored a few of these vectors. PS: The 1st RU test signals on online disinfo were recorded sometime in 2010, much before IRA.

Defence against info ops. @bodaceacat: this isn’t too different from infosec. @DavidPerlman may be inching towards an info ops kill chain

.@bodaceacat is on point. As I was tracking an Iranian disinfo portal targeting India, a journalist asked me: which of this news is fake. Fakeness is contextual, topical & time-dependent. It’s not fake-fake, really. 2nd time in the thread that I contest fact-checking as defence 

Brilliant closure by @bodaceacat: we’re at The Cuckoo’s Egg moment in info ops (referring Cliff Stoll’s book, a classical moment in infosec). Some more thoughts on offence: she hopes for a disinfo version of @MITREattack. We need disinfo TTPs

Last speaker, Wg Cdr Keith Dear: Warfare is fundamentally persuasive. So, it has a psychological/cognitive premise. Psychology must play a much greater role in your operational, tactical & strategic planning

Wingco Dear: Humans really are “biochemical algorithms, reducible to input-output mechanisms.” Quoting Peter Watson’s book, he talks about the convergence of sciences. Kahneman-Tversky showed that we make probabilistic, predictable, replicable errors which’re exploitable (wow!) 

Dear: By 2020, data brokers would’ve 5200 GB of data/person. Imagine the role of intel officers. Netflix’s recommendation is quite akin to the military perspective of “reinforcing success.” PW Singer calls it weaponised experimentation

Dear: Shared stage with Dominic Cummings, key orchestrator of Brexit. Cummings at a behavioural science conference: I didn’t employ anyone like you. I employed physicists & mathematicians for micro-targeting. Dear: We’re witnessing the unprecedented modelling of human behaviour.

Dear: Cambridge Analytica-like profiling now possible with how you type, speak & even eyeball movements. Bank of England replaces public opinion surveys with Spotify data (you can depress an adversary, too). Weaponisation goes way beyond social media

More gems from Dear: 1 Our social structures remain same throughout life (people change). That’s how you target Putin. 2 Most of our decisions are pre-ordained. 3 Germans, by creating the staff system, modelled Napoleon out of every soldier (humans = algorithms)

Dear: The rising tide of AI/ML. Modelling human behaviour quantitatively.

Heartfelt thanks to all the speakers. It’s interesting that @USSOCOM‘s organising this. Every person, family & head of state should watch the videos – probably the best exposition of future information warfare, ever. THE END.