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Aggressive information attacks seek to intimidate Lithuanian society

Aggressive information attacks seek to intimidate Lithuanian society

Russia employs information warfare to confront the West, viewing it as a continuous activity against its opponents whose policy allegedly oppose Russia’s strategic interests. Russia consistently conducts complex information campaigns, including psychological influence and cyber-enabled information operations, to influence the mindset, attitude, and behaviour of the target audience. These campaigns not only involve the spread of false information but also the use of cyber or kinetic elements.

Since 2017, Russia or its associated subjects have been carrying out cyber-enabled information attacks against Lithuania. By 2022, dozens of information attacks involving the dissemination of false information aligned with Russian interests had been carried out. These attacks had no wider impact, as most of them were unsophisticated and used primitive and easily identifiable narratives to discredit Lithuania’s national defence or the NATO alliance.

In 2023, the quality and frequency of information attacks began to increase significantly. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland faced unprecedented information operations that included kinetic elements to increase the impact. Compared to the previous attacks, these information operations were more aggressive and aimed at spreading fear and panic among society members, disrupting work of state institutions and inciting dissatisfaction with government decisions as well as the ability to enforce public order. These attacks against Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland had a significant impact on society and required a large amount of institutional resources to withstand. An example of such an information attack involved the dissemination of false information about explosives planted at schools. The attack was timed to coincide with the start of the academic year and the ongoing teachers’ strike. Information attacks are usually based on relevant events and exploit contentious issues as well as significant historical events. For example, on the Eve of 9 May, when Russia celebrates victory over Nazi Germany, several statues commemorating the anti-Soviet movement were defaced in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

Cyber capabilities are often used to conduct information operations. They allow the perpetrators to reach their target efficiently and quickly, to mimic primary information sources, to ensure the efficiency of the campaign, and maintain the anonymity of the campaign organisers. These information attacks do not require significant human or financial resources or specific IT skills.

In 2023, information attacks intensified not only against the Baltic States and Poland but also against other European countries. It is possible that they were carried out by actors affiliated with or coordinated by Russia. Russia’s information policy is likely to intensify further. Information attacks in Lithuania will affect a large part of society and hinder functioning of state institutions. It is likely that attacks planned by Russia-linked actors will coincide with the upcoming Lithuanian elections. It is possible that information attacks will be aimed at inciting fear in society, undermining trust in public security institutions, and hindering support for Ukraine.

Attacks in Lithuanian information space in 2023
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