Terrorism and Hybrid Threats

By Cat Cronin, Researcher at Talking About Terrorism and Dr. Patricia Pazos, Director at Talking About Terrorism.



1. Hybrid threats can take place in the form of cyber-terrorism attacks. Examples include an attack that is pre-determined against the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) or one that exploits a weakness in the system.


2. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR), Hybrid CoE, and the Ministry of the Interior for Finland are working together to develop a new stress tool. The tool will aid countries comprehend and enhance their abilities to decrease the risk of hybrid threats and disaster situations.


3. The European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE) was created to recognize terrorism as a source of hybrid threats. The Centre works with existing organizations, such as NATO and the EU, which are the two primary institutions working on creating Euro-Atlantic cooperation against hybrid threats.


4. The US participates in the understanding and combating of hybrid threats through NATO, but has not created its own agency or center. However, the US Army was one of the first proponents of the concept of a hybrid threat and has been studying it since 2010.


5. ISIS is an example of a terrorist group who has been categorized as a hybrid threat, particularly due to its blended tactics, flexible structures, disregard for international law, and use of terror campaigns.


6. The US formally addressed hybrid threats at the national level with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and General Martin Dempsey’s release of the 2015 National Military Strategy.


7. Within hybrid war, terrorist attacks have become a more common tactic. This has been seen in recent years in Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. A major hybrid threat is the combination of terrorism and cyber capabilities. The internet and social media have already acted as an “enhancer and force multiple” for terrorism. As cyber capabilities continue to advance, it is likely that terrorist groups will find more damaging uses of technology.


8. Hybrid threats are defined as “methods and activities that are targeted towards vulnerabilities of the opponent,” which can include states and institutions. Actions “exploit the thresholds of detection and attribution as well as the different interfaces” and they aim to influence decision-making or gain strategic goals while also undermining or hurting the target.


9. ‘Hybrid threat’ is an umbrella term. Hybrid risks can occur through the interaction of environmental events (such as extreme weather) with man-made threats such as terrorism, migration, corruption, and ethnic conflict. Hybrid threats can also occur through a combination of conventional tactics combined with terrorism.


10. As such, scholars are particularly concerned that hybrid terrorism tactics will increase in the future.





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