A new conceptual framework on hybrid threats designed by researchers aims to increase the understanding of hybrid threats and facilitate the development of effective measures to improve resilience against these threats.
The 'hybrid threats' concept refers to coordinated action conducted by hostile state or non-state actors with the deliberate goal to undermine or harm democratic states.
Although the topic is high on the political agenda, our understanding of hybrid threats is often limited to past experiences and known forms of interference, such as disinformation and terrorism.
Working together with the Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), the JRC has developed a conceptual framework, which describes the components of hybrid threats in terms of actors, their objectives, tools, the domains that can be compromised as well as the different phases of action.
Speaking during the launch event of the conceptual framework, Mariya Gabriel, European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, said: "The EU has the capacities and know-how to build its resilience against hybrid threats. But we need to understand the problem in depth to be able to design an effective response. It is our advantage that we ground our policy actions on science. The conceptual framework is an instrumental part of this process. It provides a comprehensive description of hybrid threats, actors and the tools that can be used against EU countries."
The work aims to facilitate the early detection of hybrid threats, the identification of gaps in preparedness and response and the development of effective measures to counter this complex phenomenon.
The research teams call for a whole-of-society approach, which brings together all civil, military and political actors for a more effective response to hybrid threats.
Understanding modern hybrid threats
The concept of hybrid threats is not new, but modern tools and technologies, as well as increased levels of connectivity have enabled the actors behind hybrid threats to organise attacks with potentially devastating effects.
Cyberattacks, disinformation campaigns and election interference can be part of hybrid threat activity, but none of them constitutes a hybrid threat alone.
Hybrid campaigns can be a combination of both conventional and non-conventional means, including classic warfare, cyberattacks, fake news and election interference.
They are designed to be difficult to detect or attribute to any individual or group.
The actors behind these actions aim to create ambiguity and confusion by blurring the borders of what is true and what is false, what is acceptable and what is unacceptable behaviour, manipulating legal thresholds and making it difficult attribute responsibility for wrong-doing to any particular actor.
The overarching objective of the actors is to undermine public trust in democratic institutions, challenge the core values of societies, gain geopolitical influence and weaken the decision-making capacity of countries.
- 26 November 2020