JUST IN: Startup Creates Simulator for Info-Warfare Ops

By Stew Magnuson

iStock image.

LONDON — A U.K. startup has introduced computer-based training software that simulates the information environment warfighters encounter during conflict.


London-based Conducttr recently released its Pulse training system that allows intelligence officers to participate in military exercises where they monitor local populations’ attitudes through social media and other platforms. 


The internet-based simulation exercises influence operations, also known as psychological operations, hybrid warfare, countering disinformation and counterterrorism, said Robert Pratten, CEO and founder of the company.


“People that work in intelligence, media operations, psy-ops, they don’t have an exercise environment. Now they do,” Pratten said April 27 on the sidelines of the IT2EC conference in London. 


Participants can log onto popular social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to look for simulated disinformation campaigns created by enemy operators. They can look for bots, inauthentic accounts and signs of “information laundering,” where operators push misinformation or bad news and cover their tracks by making look like it came from legitimate media sources.


“We can also simulate a cyber attack where we take your whole website down. What do you do now?” He said.


So called gray zone warfare — where nations operate below the threshold of armed conflict to create instability within rival nations — has been a hallmark of 21st century rivalries. Nations such as Russia have employed such tactics as disinformation operations with great success.


“If you have been following what’s happening in Ukraine, [President Volodymyr] Zelinsky has proven what it means to be a good communicator … This is the only platform able to simulate that situation,” Pratten said.


“People want to emulate what works and you can take those lessons and apply them in another conflict,” he added. 


The new product builds on the success of the firm’s Virtual Information Environment, introduced in 2018, Pratten said. The company started with information environment simulations for the corporate world, where media relations personnel may have to respond to bad news or a crisis surrounding a company. Since expanding to the defense and intelligence sector, it has signed several contracts with militaries and defense agencies, although Pratten said he could not disclose their identities. He has customers in the United States, although not the military, he did reveal.


The new Pulse simulation is intended to give intelligence officers a “God’s eye view” of what’s happening in a simulated or live training exercise in a conflict zone scenario, he said. 


Trainees can see how a blue team and a red team are effecting locals and how a population is responding to their actions through social media and other means of communication.


“It will show you heat maps of what’s going on. It will show you what the information environment looks like in terms of, ‘Are you winning the narrative?’”


Topics: Training and Simulation, Emerging Technologies

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