… what hybrid threats are?

written on 17/08/2020
by Rainer Jungwirth


Hybrid Threats to Modern Societies

Hybrid threats are defined as : A “mixture of coercive and subversive activity, conventional and unconventional methods, which can be used in a coordinated manner by state or non-state actors to achieve specific objectives while remaining below the threshold of formally declared warfare”.

But what does it really mean? During a hybrid campaign, an adversary might use disinformation, cyber attacks, trade dependencies or other tools to exploit vulnerabilities of the targeted country in different domains (e.g. cyber, political, society etc.) to gain further influence, hinder decision making and ultimately impose their will.



Why are liberal societies particularly vulnerable?

A hybrid adversary aims to exploit vulnerabilities intrinsic to liberal and plural democracies, like abusing freedom of speech to spread misinformation or radicalizing political or ethical minorities.

A country is especially vulnerable in times of crisis when it must redefine itself and possible ruptures become more apparent. This could especially be observed during the current Covid-19 crisis.

At the same time, a liberal society cannot remove the intrinsic vulnerabilities or threaten to retaliate in kind without sacrificing the very values that define it.



What is JRC doing?

European governments and institutions have recognized that threats to EU security are “are increasingly taking non-conventional forms”. A significant number of legislative proposals have been adopted to underpin efforts at national and EU levels.

JRC has developed “The Landscape of Hybrid Threats: A conceptual model” which will support the development of new methods to identify vulnerabilities, foresee potential hybrid threats and increase societal resilience.


Most important hybrid tools used during the current Covid-19 crisis are:

  • misinformation - disinformation - fake news
  • creating and exploiting infrastracture dependencies
  • creating or exploiting economic dependencies
  • foreign direct investment

The tools are used against the following domains:

  • INFRASTRUCTURE
  • CYBER
  • SPACE
  • ECONOMY
  • MILITARY/DEFENCE
  • CULTURE
  • SOCIAL/SOCIETAL
  • PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
  • LEGAL
  • INTELLIGENCE
  • DIPLOMACY
  • POLITICAL
  • INFORMATION