False Flags in Cyberspace: Targeting Public Opinion and Political Will

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Bottom Line: In the digital age, determining the origins of cyberattacks is already difficult, but cyber actors can further muddy attribution by diverting blame for attacks to others. The intention is not necessarily to trick intelligence services – who are able to access information beyond technical forensics of the hack – but rather undermine public confidence in attribution and therefore undercut political will to respond to belligerent activity in cyberspace.

Background: A false flag operation – pretending to be someone else while conducting spycraft or warfare – is an age-old tactic. With the advent of cyber espionage and digital warfare, those maneuvering in the virtual domain can also conduct false flag operations.

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