• MOOC coordinators Manuel Gértrudix Barrio & Rubén Arcos Martín
  • Content written by Rubén Arcos Martín & Irena Chiru
  • Multimedia design by Alejandro Carbonell Alcocer
  • Visual Identity by Juan Romero Luis

Security, Asymmetric Threats and Communication

This section started by providing a comprehensive perspective on the 21st century security threats. It provided definitions of the main concepts that one needs to adequately operate with in understanding and explaining the current threats against security, but also their nature and the significant difficulties they rise in terms of identification and interpretation. Hence, after getting through this section, you can operate with concepts such as: national security threats, traditional vs non-traditional threats, external vs internal threats, conventional vs un-conventional threats, asymmetric or hybrid threats.

Secondly, this section structured and presented the most important security threats in the digital era currently affecting European liberal democracies. High impact intervention techniques, such as cyber interference in elections, dissemination of fake news, manipulation of false actors and creation of “astroturf” groups, use of artificial intelligence, distributed denial-of-service and hacking of critical infrastructure, make liberal democracies are far more vulnerable today to asymmetric attacks coming from autocratic states than before.

Last but not least, this section provided an enhanced knowledge on the cyber/information as a security domain in the sense that in the same manner as land, air, and sea, presently the cyberspace is a realm that can be used to conduct information and influence operations. Moreover, the section brought into attention several challenges deriving from the very general practices of consuming content and which can make us truly vulnerable to manipulated information and covert influence activities acted by hybrid threat entities. Our digital era provides new opportunities are the same that may pose a challenge for Western-style liberal democracies asking for developing cyber-influence awareness, persuasive communication literacy, and instilling and expanding critical thinking approaches to information and social media consumption. All these can develop the resilience capacity of our societies in order to counter covert influence programs targeting larger populations.

Methodology and Resources

  • Arcos, Rubén. “Information influencing in the Catalan illegal referendum and beyond,” in Hybrid Warfare:
  • Security and Asymmetric Conflict in International Relations, edited by Mikael Weissmann, Niklas Nilsson, Per Thunholm, and Björn Palmertz, I.B. Tauris, forthcoming 2020 (submitted on 31 October 2020).
  • Bienkov, Adam (2012). “Astroturfing: what is it and why does it matter?” The Guardian, 8 February 2012,
  • Flore, M. et al. Understanding Citizens' Vulnerabilities to Disinformation and Data-Driven Propaganda, 2019, European Comission. Avalable at:  
  • Pamment, J., Nothhaft, H., & Fjällhed, A. (2018). Countering Information Influence Activities: The State of the Art. MSB.
  • Varol, Onur; Ferrara, Emilio, Davis, Clayton A., Menczer, Filippo, and Alessandro Flammini (2017). Online Human-Bot Interactions: Detection, Estimation, and Characterization. International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, North America, may. 2017. Available at: