Poland’s Defence Minister announced today that he would be investing in 1,000 cyber troops.
Speaking earlier at the Cybersec-2017 forum in Krakow, he said the need for a Polish cyber army was due to Russian threats.
An enormous £417 billion pounds, (2 billion zlotys) is being poured into the project, and it seems Poland isn’t the only one investing in these keyboard warriors.
But who are these cyber troops?
Cyber troops are defined by a University of Oxford report as, "government, military or political party teams committed to manipulating public opinion over social media".
They are pervasive and employed globally to manage messages online.
In just seven years their presence exploded, with 28 countries now reporting such organisations working within their borders.
Though currently little is known about their work and practices due to the secretive nature, we do know that cyber troops employ traditional offensive methods such as hacking, trolling and surveillance.
Unlike professionals employed in cyber-security, cyber troops are challenged with a distinctive task… to manipulate public opinions online.
They are the offensive unit that must interfere, engage head on and influence people’s opinion, without ever meeting them.
Who’s using cyber troops?
Although Russia gets the most attention for their cyber capabilities, cyber superpowers include the United States, China, Israel, Iran, North Korea and the United Kingdom.
In 2014 the Pentagon announced they were increasing their cyber expansion from 1,800 staff to 6,000 over two years.
The UK developed the 77th Brigade in January 2015, charged with focusing on:
"non-lethal psychological operations using social networks like Facebook and Twitter to fight enemies by gaining control of the narrative of information age."
The unit of cyber troops, which combats extremist propaganda, looks for a different set of skills in their soldiers, such as journalism and social media experience.
It was named in tribute to the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade, which was part of the Chindits. The legendary unit was known for their daring operations that lead them deep behind enemy lines.
How are they deployed?
The chances are that most of us check Facebook or Twitter every day, for some, it’s the first thing that happens in the morning and the last at night.
Deployed on social media, cyber troops can interact with an enormous audience regularly. They work to spread either favourable information, or stem the spread of unfavourable information.
Currently, social media’s reach shows no sign of stopping. According to statistics from August 2017, there are 2.56 billion global mobile social media users globally, with one million new active mobile social users added every day.
With vast numbers of people getting their news online daily, the role of cyber troops is not only crucial but very effective in dissemination information that can shape public opinion.
Perhaps the saying is true: the pen, or keyboard, is mightier than the sword.