Information Warfare: A Philosophical Perspective


This paper focuses on Information Warfare—the warfare characterised by the use of information and communication technologies. This is a fast growing phenomenon, which poses a number of issues ranging from the military use of such technologies to its political and ethical implications. The paper presents a conceptual analysis of this phenomenon with the goal of investigating its nature. Such an analysis is deemed to be necessary in order to lay the groundwork for future investigations into this topic, addressing the ethical problems engendered by this kind of warfare. The conceptual analysis is developed in three parts. First, it delineates the relation between Information Warfare and the Information revolution. It then focuses attention on the effects that the diffusion of this phenomenon has on the concepts of war. On the basis of this analysis, a definition of Information Warfare is provided as a phenomenon not necessarily sanguinary and violent, and rather transversal concerning the environment in which it is waged, the way it is waged and the ontological and social status of its agents. The paper concludes by taking into consideration the Just War Theory and the problems arising from its application to the case of Information Warfare.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    For an analysis of RMA considering both the history of such revolutions and the effects of the development of the most recent technologies on warfare, see Benbow (2004) and Blackmore (2005).

  2. 2.

  3. 3.

  4. 4.

  5. 5.

    Note that MQ-1 Predators and EADS Barracuda, and the Northrop Grumman X-47B are Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles used for combat actions and they are different from Unmanned Air Vehicles, like for example Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout, which are used for patrolling and recognition purposes only.

  6. 6.

  7. 7.

    See Benbow (2004) and Blackmore (2005) for an analysis of the debate on the ongoing RMA.

  8. 8.

    The USA only spent $400 million in developing technologies for cyber conflicts:

    The UK devoted £650 million to the same purpose:

  9. 9.

  10. 10.

    See Wingfield (2000) for a description of the criteria to assess the whether a war action uses economic, diplomatic forces, and other soft measures.

  11. 11.

    Note that the problems related to the application of the principle of last resort are not a direct consequence of the informational nature of the possible strike, rather they follow from the fact that cyber attacks may be bloodless. In this respect, the application of the principle becomes problematic in any case where a bloodless first strike could be used to avoid a sanguinary war, independently from the nature of such a strike.

  12. 12.

    In 2007, Israel launched Operation Orchard and carried out an airstrike on Syria. It has been speculated that the Israeli army may have used a computer program, Suter, to interfere with the Syrian air defense system in order for Israeli planes to pass undetected by the Syrian radar.

  13. 13.

    The ‘cup cake attack’ was launched by MI6 against Al Qaeda on-line magazine in June 2011. In this case the instructions on how to ‘Make a bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom’ where changed into the recipes of ‘The Best Cupcakes in America’.

  14. 14.

    This problem is part of the 3R problems described in the section “Introduction”.


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Correspondence to Mariarosaria Taddeo.

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Taddeo, M. Information Warfare: A Philosophical Perspective. Philos. Technol. 25, 105–120 (2012).

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  • Cyber attack
  • Information revolution
  • Information warfare
  • Robotic weapon
  • Just war
  • Theory
  • War