The Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, a Washington, D.C., nonpartisan think tank, announced it is establishing the Center for Cyber-Influence Operations Studies.

CCIOS will expand ICIT’s focus on critical infrastructure protection, cybersecurity and online privacy to include information warfare. Potential topics of future CCIOS research include digital propaganda, psychological warfare, political warfare and other forms of perception steering.

ICIT and CCIOS Senior Fellow James Scott said, “This is an advisory that studies the weaponized digital applications used by foreign nation-states for influence operations.”

In recent years, nation-states have been employing unconventional methods to advance their agendas. The most prominent example in the U.S. has been Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. In recent weeks, Facebook, Twitter and Google discovered advertising allegedly bought and run during the 2016 election cycle by groups associated with Russia intelligence. The advertising’s intent is said to have been increasing U.S. political divisions and undermining trust in the election system. Some of the advertisements have been submitted to congressional committees investigating the matter.

But Russia is far from the only nation-state employing sophisticated information operations, and the U.S. is not the sole target. China, Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea all run extensive information operations against the U.S. and its allies.

Terrorist groups such as ISIS and al Qaeda have also proven effective at using online propaganda to recruit followers and inspire decentralized cells to carry out terrorist attacks.

CCIOS aims to help the U.S. government and military understand these phenomena. “The legislative and intelligence communities are still basing their defense concepts on traditional ‘brick and mortar’ strategies that are no match for the new, digitized ‘Influence Operations 2.0’ methodology that is rapidly gaining momentum against our nation,” ICIT said in a statement.

CCIOS’s official launch will coincide with ICIT’s publication of a new white paper, “The New Cyber-Kinetic-Meta-War: The Digitization of Influence Operations,” due to be released in October. In addition to research, CCIOS will provide advisory and investigative services.

ICIT published more background on CCIOS here.

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