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The Art of Perception Management in Information Warfare Today Sudheer Kumar Reddy Introduction Recent Technological innovations
The Art of Perception Management in Information Warfare Today Sudheer Kumar Reddy Introduction Recent Technological innovations
The Art of Perception Management in Information Warfare Today Sudheer Kumar Reddy Introduction Recent Technological innovations

The Art of Perception Management in Information Warfare Today


Sudheer Kumar Reddy



Recent Technological innovations have created such a context where in it is said that all the future wars can be prevented, won or lost based on the skills of waging a cyber war based on information superiority. Some of the recent alarming developments such as intrusion into the website of the Ministry of External Affairs by Pakistani hackers and reports of Chinese hackers accessing sensitive information from closed Indian networks reveal that it is high time that India takes systematization of Information warfare infrastructure and strategy seriously.


Simultaneously, while India appears to be doing well off late in terms of Perception Management as is reflected in its recent election as non permanent member to UN and the lifting of nuclear sanctions by the west which is a clear shift in foreign policy issues of many countries in favor of India, we need to have a long term strategic approach towards perception management , Information Warfare and their convergence like in case of US which has systematized its information warfare operations long back.

The US’ waging of Iraq war in 2003 and its public perception management during the time by trying to give the world, an American view of the war so as to prejudice political and public relations is a very powerful demonstration of the use of Perception Management in information warfare in management of international and domestic public perceptions.

Information Warfare and Perception Management

Information Warfare refers to information activities carried out during war or conflict to promote any nation’s objectives over a specific adversary. These activities may be a combination of command and control warfare, intelligence based warfare and hacker warfare. In the late nineties, the global media companies like CNN, Disney etc. which were susceptible to government perspectives reported information given by official sources without any objective assessment and information management started even in a non- war time and these came to be called as information operations.

Information Operations are those actions taken to affect adversary’s information while defending one’s own information system. As such

Information Warfare has got both offensive and defensive sides. Defensive side of Information Warfare deals with protection and maintenance of integrity of data, communication networks and technologies so that required data is available to those authorized in a timely and reliable way. It involves activities of operation security and counter deception like denials, fire walls, encryptions etc. The offensive side of Information Warfare deals with doctoring the adversaries’ perceptions and uses Perception Management and its strategies as a main tool.

Perception Management as a term has its origin in US Military. In simple terms, Perception Management can be defined as “the activities to convey or deny selected information so as to mislead the enemy so that he acts in a way favorable to the originator’s interests and prejudicial to his own interests.

The advances in technology have made it very easy for enemies to access, modify, create or interpret others’ data very easily as has been recently witnessed where china could hack into more than a thousand US websites on a single day. But by a proper Perception Management, even this can be converted into an advantage as information warfare is all about having an objective view of adversary’s information and his opinion about us while not letting him know our own perception about him.

Perception Management in information generally uses the following broad set of strategies

Denial of Information which includes concealment and

camouflage. Deception and Mimicry which include insertion of

intentionally misleading information in one’s own information so that the receiver can’t distinguish a phony signal from the real signal. Disruption and Destruction which consists of insertion of

information which triggers a self destructive process in the opponent target system. Disinformation/ruse and conditioning including PSYOPS (Psychological Operations)

History and International Initiatives

Although the art of Perception Management has been a time honored feature of warfare, only in the twentieth century has governments developed doctrines and started using it formally. The most important

component of Perception Management is media management and countries are trying to make best possible use of it.

The US had learnt its first lessons in perception management during the debacle of Vietnam war. The manipulation of news by the US during the Falkland war of 1982 was a classic case of Perception Management where all press releases were controlled and communicated by the government. Similar sophistication in information control by military was displayed in Gulf war of 1991. Though there was a high resentment against US in these war torn states, for US, the perception it could successfully create that the military operation was not only a success but welcomed by all parties was all that mattered.

The 9/11 attacks have severely affected the objectivity of the reporters and they deliberately started getting involved in shaping perceptions. As a consequence, the second Iraq War presented a true Information War and the role of media in managing Perception Management. Another glaring example was the highly successful CIA funded plan by Rendon Group which is a leader in Perception Management which doctored public perceptions about presence of WMDs in Iraq. These activities are confined not just to US, but also to other west and oriental nations.

The Soviets used the term Maskirovka to represent their doctrine of Perception Management and they almost had it as a function of statecraft not just confining to military and have used it to great effort during cold war and were the first to develop it as a part of normal diplomatic and military procedure. Similarly Germany started developing information operations as an integrated functioning area with in military called as MINOE (Multi National Information operations experiment.

Even our neighbors Srilanka have been quite successful in Perception Management during the war with LTTE where the complaints of human rights violation were very rarely heard of which is not so typical with the region and the victory was acclaimed all over. The Chinese have showed India, the classic application of Perception Management techniques when they attacked Arunachal Pradesh first in the 1962 war while their actual designs were for the part of Ladakh which connects Tibet. It has also been reported recently that China is also planning to build a Net Force to specialize in cyber wars to be fought in future.

The Indian Context

Given the above international developments, it becomes highly

imperative that India should do well to

practice the art of perception

management in the doctrines of information warfare. At the same time, it should also be able to appreciate the advantages of proper perception management in various diplomatic, public and civil affairs.

Perception Management in diplomatic sphere helps in wielding strategic influence in the international arena and it is all about trying to influence foreign government policies to support our political interest. Public Affairs management relates to manipulation of military/government interaction with media. Civil Affairs management relate to actions needed to influence relations between military/government and civilians. This is very important to achieve domestic support for strategic international policy decisions.

If properly appreciated the advantages from the art of perception management can be nurtured to bear fruits in other non-military operations like shaping business perceptions (marketing), political campaigning (the recent Paid News debacle) etc. Paid News can also be considered to be a type of perception management which comes under public diplomacy but in a highly inappropriate sense.

But the real time application of techniques of perception management have become even more important for India in recent times due to the necessity to counter terrorist activities (while not offending any community), CBT and separatist activities (so as not to lose public support), Naxal Activities and other internal problems with greater ramifications in the longer run.

All this neither means that India is not good at perception management nor that it has not taken any initiatives in that direction. Our techniques of perception management during the kargil war have changed the world’s perception of Indo-Pak relations that existed previously biased against India. We have started asserting ourselves in the international fora and a cognizable shift is found in policies of many foreign countries hither to not in favor of India.

Indian Initiatives

Indian military is also catching up with the west in Perception Management and Information Warfare activities and started creating its own infrastructure. Some of these initiatives include plans to set up DIWA (Defense Information War Agency) as an information war agency under tri service defense staff head quarters. It will provide military inputs to National information board and will handle all aspects of information war including PSYOPs, cyber war, Electro Magnetic disruptions, denials, destructions etc. The Army institute was established in Hyderabad to teach


officers about fundamentals of Information Warfare and Perception Management techniques. Some of the Army teaching institutes have introduced Information Warfare and Perception Management as a part of their syllabus and Army officers are also being sent to IITs for training.

But all these adhoc measures will not suffice and a solid doctrine and strategy along with necessary infrastructure and technical support are required for developing our Information Warfare Operations into a specialized area in near future to face general problems involving information warfare and perception management system. Such problems may include understanding and analyzing complex deception strategies of adversaries involving many variables, detection of inconsistencies, countering the opponent’s deception management strategy etc.


Since Perception Management is more an art than a science, there is every chance that it may lead to unintended adverse consequences. So the strategies of mass perception management should be used judiciously with proper strategy and expertise if India has to dominate/win future Information wars effectively. Ironically, the technology loaded information rich novel environments make perception management both more and less achievable.

officers about fundamentals of Information Warfare and Perception Management techniques. Some of the Army teaching institutes
officers about fundamentals of Information Warfare and Perception Management techniques. Some of the Army teaching institutes