• Johan Sigholm Swedish National Defence College
Keywords: non-state actors, cyber, cyberspace, cyberwar, cyberactions, cyberattack


The growing importance of cyberspace to modern society, and its increasing use as an arena for dispute, is becoming a national security concern for governments and armed forces globally. The special characteristics of cyberspace, such as its asymmetric nature, the lack of attribution, the low cost of entry, the legal ambiguity, and its role as an efficient medium for protest, crime, espionage and military aggression, makes it an attractive domain for nation-states as well as non-state actors in cyber conflict.

This paper studies the various non-state actors who coexist in cyberspace, examines their motives and incitements, and analyzes how and when their objectives coincide with those of nation-states. Literature suggests that many nations are currently pursuing cyberwarfare capabilities, oftentimes by leveraging criminal organizations and irregular forces. Employment of such non-state actors as hacktivists, patriot hackers, and cybermilitia in state-on-state cyberspace operations has also proved to be a usable model for conducting cyberattacks. The paper concludes that cyberspace is emerging as a new tool for state power that will likely reshape future warfare. However, due to the lack of concrete cyberwarfare experience, and the limited encounters of legitimate cyberattacks, it is hard to precisely assess future effects, risks and potentials.

How to Cite
Sigholm, J. (2013). NON-STATE ACTORS IN CYBERSPACE OPERATIONS. Journal of Military Studies, 4(1). Retrieved from