Sub-theme 15: Information Warfare: The Dangers and Vulnerabilities of the Networked Organization

To upload your short paper, please log in to the Member Area.
Convenors:
Iain Munro
Newcastle University Business School, United Kingdom
Aki-Mauri Huhtinen
Finnish National Defence University, Finland
Kirstie Ball
University of St Andrews, United Kingdom

Call for Papers


The purpose of this sub theme is to investigate questions concerning how information networks are being used as a weapon by individuals and organizations today. The information networks involved are the property of business organizations: they are the infrastructures which are there primarily to sustain competitive advantage and to enable services to be delivered. Information is not only a valuable economic tool, but can also be used as a weapon of attack for disruptive purposes. Increasingly information networks are themselves becoming both a means of sabotage and a source of vulnerability (Upton & Creese, 2014). The literature in management and organization studies has been saturated with research into the effects of networks on how production and innovation are organized (Brass et al., 2004; Castells, 1996), however, research into the use of information as a weapon rather than a tool has been conspicuous by its absence. As recent years have witnessed a massive increase in the national security state and collaboration between private companies, the military and the national security establishment (Ball et al., 2015), as well as the existence of cracks within the military-industrial complex, the time is ripe for a re-evaluation of the contentious role of communications networks and the weaponization of information within contemporary organizations.
 
The warlike and disruptive usage of these infrastructures merits systematic consideration of the different positions business organizations adopt in relation to information warfare – as perpetrators, victims, willing or unwilling accomplices – and what these positions produce. One of the first major events to reveal the effectiveness of such weapons occurred in Estonia in 2007 when hackers targeted the country’s banking system, its government communications networks and other aspects of its critical infrastructure (McAfee, 2014). Here, business organizations emerged as the victims of cybercrime. Organizations have also been co-opted into state surveillance efforts as well as com- promised by them. In December 2013 a number of US based communications companies including AOL, Facebook and Microsoft sent an open letter to the US government which demanded that the US government respect privacy and the human rights of its citizens (AOL et al., 2013). This letter explained that, “We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer’s revelations [by Edward Snowden] highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide. The balance in many countries has tipped too far in favour of the state and away from the rights of the individual – rights that are enshrined in our Constitution. This undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”
 
Furthermore, documents released on The Intercept in June 2016 revealed that the UK government’s cyber-espionage unit entitled the ‘National Technical Assistance Centre’ (NTAC), had been placing surveillance teams in the offices of three major UK internet service providers (ISPs): BT, Vodafone, and O2, since 2001, under the moniker ‘Project Catsup’ (Campbell, 2016). Perceived as ‘bully boy’ tactics by the ISPs, the teams were syphoning off data from their information networks to collect financial, communications and travel information from the data-streams of the ISPs various corporate customers. This exercise of brute power came against backdrop of unwieldy and problematic legislation attempting to achieve the same outcome.
 
Finally, new forms of network organization are emerging which are engaging in and have been the target of information warfare, such as the Anonymous collective, and WikiLeaks network. The WikiLeaks network has revealed numerous high profile incidents of corporate and government corruption including the fraudulent behaviour of banks in Iceland and elsewhere during the recent financial crisis, the complicity of international banks including Barclays Bank and HSBC in the use of tax havens to hide these embezzled funds, and war crimes of US troops in the Middle East during the Iraq War. In turn, this network organization has been the target of aggressive corporate and government counterattacks (Munro, 2015).
 
The use of information as a weapon has become an increasingly popular topic of inquiry across a range of fields including computer studies (Denning, 1999); international relations (Arquilla & Ronfeldt, 1997), and management studies (Kuronen & Huhtinen, 2017; Munro, 2005; Upton & Creese, 2014), particularly with respect to the rapid rise of cybercrime (McAfee, 2010, 2014) and cyberespionage (Huhtinen, 2015; Mandiant, 2013; Ruskin, 2013).
 
This sub-theme calls for an intensification of efforts on the part of organization theorists to examine this important contemporary phenomenon. We welcome a range of theoretical and empirical contributions addressing amongst other issues the following:

  • Control and resistance in information networks
  • Information as a weapon in business
  • Sabotage in the network organization
  • Cybercrime and security
  • The Hacker Ethic and the Rise of Network Organization
  • Hacker organizations versus business and the state
  • Surveillance and the militarization of information networks
  • Anonymous, WikiLeaks and new forms of network
  • WikiLeaks, Snowden, the Panama Papers and networked whistleblowing
  • Nomadism and guerrilla tactics as a model of organization
  • Hybrid organization and warfare
  • Propaganda and organization
  • Information warfare on the social media and “troll factories”

 

References

  • AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Twitter, Yahoo! (2013): Global Government Surveillance Reform. https://www.reformgovernmentsurveillance.com/
  • Arquilla, J., & Ronfeldt, D. (eds.) (1997): In Athena’s Camp: Preparing for Conflict in the Information Age. Washington, D.C.: RAND National Defense Research Institute.
  • Ball, K., Canhoto, A., Daniel, E., Dibb, S., Meadows, M., & Spiller, K. (2015): The Private Security State? Surveillance, Consumer Data and the War on Terror. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press.
  • Brass, D., Galaskiewicz, J., Greve, H., & Wenpin, T. (2004): “Taking stock of networks and organizations: A multilevel perspective.” Academy of Management Journal, 47 (6), 795–819.
  • Castells, M. (1996): The Rise of the Network Society. The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture, Vol. I. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
  • Denning, D. (1999): Information Warfare and Security. Indianapolis: Addison-Wesley.
  • Huhtinen, A.-M. (2015): “The Double Edge of the Information Sword.” International Journal of Cyber Warfare and Terrorism, 5 (2), 21–30.
  • Kuronen, T., & Huhtinen, A.-M. (2017): “Organizing Conflict. The Rhizome of Jihad.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 26 (1), 47–61.
  • Mandiant (2013): Exposing One of China’s Cyber Espionage Units. http://intelreport.mandiant.com/Mandiant_APT1_Report.pdf
  • McAfee (2010): In the Crossfire. Critical Infrastructure in the Age of Cyber War. Santa Clara, CA: McAfee Inc. http://img.en25.com/Web/McAfee/CIP_report_final_uk_fnl_lores.pdf
  • McAfee (2014): Net Losses: Estimating the Global Cost of Cybercrime. Economic impact of cybercrime II. Santa Clara, CA: McAfee Inc. http://www.mcafee.com/us/resources/reports/rp-economic-impact-cybercrime2.pdf
  • Munro, I. (2005): Information Warfare in Business. London: Routledge.
  • Munro, I. (2015): “Organizational resistance as a vector of deterritorialization: The case of WikiLeaks and secrecy havens.” Organization, 23 (4), 567–587.
  • Ruskin, G. (2013): Spooky Business: Corporate Espionage Against Nonprofit Organizations. Center for Corporate Policy. https://www.corporatepolicy.org/spookybusiness.pdf
  • Upton, D., & Creese, S. (2014): “The Danger from Within.” Harvard Business Review, 92 (9), 94–101.
  • The Intercept (2016): NTAC Overview. https://theintercept.com/document/2016/06/07/ntac-overview/

 

Iain Munro is Professor of Organisation at Newcastle University Business School, UK. He has written a research monograph on “Information Warfare in Business” (Routledge, 2005) that develops the idea that information is not simply a tool but is increasingly being used as a weapon and as an object of attack, and has published a series of articles on the emergence of information warfare in business and in social movement organizations. He is an Editorial Board Member of ‘Human Relations’ and ‘Organization Studies’ and an Associate Editor of ‘Organization’.
Aki-Mauri Huhtinen is a Military Professor at the Finnish National Defence University in the Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy, Finland. His areas of expertise are military leadership, command and control, the philosophy of science in military organizational research and the philosophy of war. He has published widely on the subject of information warfare, leadership and cyber-strategy.
Kirstie Ball is Professor of Management at the University of St Andrews, UK. She is Co-Director of CRISP, the Centre for Research into Information, Surveillance and Privacy, a joint research centre between the Universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh and Stirling. Kirstie also co-founded and co-ran the journal Surveillance and Society and the charitable company “Surveillance Studies Network”, an educational charity which supports the journal. Her book “The Private Security State” is the first empirical examination of the impact of government surveillance regimes on the private sector. She has advised numerous regulators, NGOs and media organizations about surveillance, privacy and security.
To upload your short paper, please log in to the Member Area.