Event Reports

"Responding to hybrid threats: from disinformation to boots on the ground"

by Aylin Matlé

KAS Israel hosts Cyber Security Roundtable

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation Israel hosted a two-day Cyber Security expert round-table in Herzliya which dealt with the topic "Responding to hybrid threats: from disinformation to boots on the ground" from the 12th to the 14th of November. The round-table was the fourth of its kind as part of a series of events and brought together German, Israeli and US experts from the field of cyber security.
At the beginning of the event, two speakers provided the conceptual foundation for further discussions in the session "What are hybrid threats?". Although many have been talking about hybrid threats for some years now, states and national as well as international organizations work with different definitions; these are often culturally biased. In Israel, for example, there is no common definition of what constitutes a hybrid threat since such a threat could restrict the state's action. Scholars, on the other hand, as well as state authorities in other countries, continue to develop differing definitions. However, there is no internationally accepted definition yet.
Building upon the opening session, the discussions focused on concrete areas that can be subsumed under hybrid threats. Thus, (offensive) cyber operations were discussed as part of hybrid warfare. In this context, the workshop participants focused on the question of whether or not international agreements could be reached to prevent states from interfering in national affairs (e.g. election campaigns) of other states. However, the chances of success of such an agreement were considered to be low.
The experts also examined the question of how hybrid threats fit into the foreign policies of different countries. The discussion revealed that many foreign policy areas are affected by the supposedly new threat including security and defence policies as well as (international) diplomacy. In addition, one of the biggest problems of hybrid and cyber-attacks was repeatedly addressed: attribution. It is still technically difficult to clearly prove where a cyber-attack had originated. Even more sensitive was the question of whether or not states - if they had identified an attacker with high probability - were politically willing to make this piece of information public.
In addition, the cyber security experts from Germany, Israel and the US had lively discussions about the increasing threat to critical infrastructure, international financial systems and national elections.