Today (5 April 2023), the international conference “Digital Transformation for Citizens” organized by the Metamorphosis Foundation from Skopje continued its work, whereby the first panel titled “How to build resistance to hybrid war?” was held.

Ilija Zupanoski, Digital Communications Associate at the Office of the Macedonian Prime Minister, emphasized that lately the society has been facing more serious challenges from hybrid warfare, including an influx of disinformation, with the aim of achieving political, security or economic influence. He added that such unconventional measures aim, primarily, to undermine democracy and cause citizens’ distrust in the government and in the media, as well as to spread panic, as was the case with false reports of bombs planted in schools and malls.

Noting the measures that have been taken in this country to deal with hybrid threats and cyber-attacks, the prime minister’s advisor emphasized that an institutional measure was taken as early as in 2019, and will soon continue with a serious comprehensive step initiated by the non-governmental sector.

“Few weeks ago, the Government received an initiative from a group of national organizations with specific recommendations on dealing with disinformation, and the Government accepted this as a good basis, so we expect to hold a joint meeting soon, to create a national plan and include all stakeholders when dealing with this issue”, disclosed Zhupanoski.

Aleksandar Acev, Head of the National Center for Computer Incident Response – MKD CIRT within the Agency for Electronic Communications, emphasized that threats from hybrid attacks require organized measures and close cooperation of all stakeholders, regardless of whether it includes state institutions, civil society organizations and citizens.

Mandatory reporting of incidents by citizens and various bodies is the basic prerequisite for them to get the desired outcome”, recommended Acev, clarifying that all information on incident reporting is provided on their website.

The issue of hybrid attacks and disinformation is not new, it goes back for a long time, noted Merle Maigre, Programme Director of Cybersecurity at the e-Governance Academy from Estonia.

Referring to the current invasion of the Russian Federation on Ukraine, she stated that the attacks from the Russian side on her country continue and escalate since the beginning of the invasion, with particularly strong attacks in April and August last year.

As an example, if there was an average of 12 DDOS attacks last year on Estonian state institutions on a monthly basis, in April and August 2022 there were 65 attacks monthly,she emphasized.

Referring to the measures that need to be taken, she said that first it is necessary to focus on recognizing digital attacks, then to raise that problem at the international level, but also to involve the private sector that has the knowledge and capacity to help state authorities in the struggle against cyber-threats and disinformation.

The following panels referred to “Protecting Privacy in an AI-Driven World” where the possibilities for progress in the use of artificial intelligence in every social sphere were discussed, while respecting the citizens’ privacy at the same time, as well as “Building Cyber Resilient Communities“, which referred to cyber security as much more than just a complex technological challenge, which requires building a culture based on a high level of awareness and preparedness of all stakeholders in the society.

In the evening hours (6:30 p.m., in “Public Room”), which is the time reserved for topics dedicated to young people, the discussion titled “The dark side of social media – coexistence with good and evil” will be held. A debate will take place on setting boundaries and possibilities of coexistence with the advantages and challenges of social platforms.

The conference is organized within the project “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA“, co-financed by the European Union.

The agenda for the conference is available here.

The photos from the second day of the conference are available here.