Ali Hajizade: By manipulating information, one can destabilize or at least create problems in almost any country
 Ali Hajizade: By manipulating information, one can destabilize or at least create problems in almost any country
SHARE: READ: 628     10:55     03 August 2022    
B aku Tribune presents an interview with political analyst and founder of Tarand.io project Ali Hajizade. Brief resume Ali Hajizade was born on February 26, 1984 in Baku. He graduated from the Azerbaijan State Art Academy. In 2012, he founded the PR company Hajizade Group. From 2015 to 2021 he led the research project The Greater Middle East. Later he was a columnist for Al Arabiya and was quoted by major media outlets. The main field of his analytical activity is the study of information wars and providing solutions for human-focused information security. - Mr. Hajizade, please tell us how you got into what you do now? - This is a bit long and at times boring story, but I'll try to keep it short. Initially, I did not do exactly what I do now, i.e., the research of information wars, information operations, and development of counter-measures. I was engaged in Public Relations, then in 2012 I founded my own company, which, by the way, turns 10 this year. But we, as residents of Azerbaijan, have over the years been exposed to continuous propaganda and informational influence of circles associated with Armenia, Iran, and Russia. Of course, this attracted my attention, and being a PR specialist, it was easier for me than for regular people to understand the essence of these processes, their mechanisms, ultimate goals, and methods for achieving these goals. Gradually, I got involved in studying and exposing propaganda and information manipulations and eventually began doing it professionally, with my main focus being on the Middle East. During this time, I was both the target of information attacks and manipulations and the whistleblower and developer of countermeasures. This was definitely a huge and valuable experience for me. - Do you believe that information is the new weapon of the 21st century? - Yes, it is definitely a weapon and a tool of influence, but it is not a new one, even in ancient times people were able to weaponize information. But the 21st century provided unprecedented opportunities; never in the history of mankind has the information been so easily available and uncontrollable at the same time. People have never been able to create and disseminate the information so quickly and so widely, as we see it now. Someone said that information is the gold of the 21st century and it is hard not to agree with that. Large corporations spend billions to collect, process, and use the data, which we actually create every day. Malicious actors use the information to attack their enemies and competitors, some of our neighboring countries consider information planning and information influence as part of their military doctrines and military operations. By manipulating information, one can destabilize or at least create problems in almost any country. And this is just a very short summary, based on the aforementioned and my personal experience, I can say that yes – information is a weapon. - We are aware of your US-based project. In the "mission" section on your corporate website, you are quoted as saying: " Tarand offers a unique product that helps you understand what is happening and protect yourself!" Do you think that individuals and organizations should protect themselves from disinformation and information attacks? Is that not the duty of law enforcement? - To answer your question, I would like to make a slight digression. I have been studying information warfare, disinformation campaigns, influence operations, and many other related things for almost ten years. But this whole time I limited myself to studying the issue, publishing analytical articles on this topic, public speeches and occasionally developing trainings. This essentially contributed to the rise of Information Security Literacy, but did not train how to detect and counteract. As I mentioned, I myself was a victim and target of information attacks, and I realized that since this is a new area, most law enforcement agencies are not able to help, wherever it happens to be. When companies or organizations want to ensure their cybersecurity, the safety of their data, or the data of their customers, they do not turn to law enforcement. Every day, thousands of people in risk groups and ordinary people are subjected to information attacks, and law enforcement agencies around the world simply do not have sufficient resources to deal with them. Therefore, I came up with the idea of creating a platform that would help people from risk groups, as well as small and medium organizations, to understand the nature of these challenges, learn to recognize the threats, and effectively deal with them. The idea came about at the beginning of 2020, the Pandemic caused complications, but in early 2021 we still managed to create the platform and start the work. I say “we”, because our team includes specialists from different parts of the world, and it would be unfair not to acknowledge their efforts. - What is your outlook for the next 4-5 years in the field of information security? - To be honest, my outlook to the developments in the field of Human focused information security is not optimistic. We witnessed a surge in disinformation and manipulation during the pandemic. For the most part, it was not a spontaneous and chaotic process, but was directed by certain states and circles in order to weaken rivals and gain geopolitical and geo-economic advantages. Now the world is entering a global recession, and some regions are threatened by famine, drought, and conflicts. In Europe, we are witnessing political and ideological polarization against the background of the largest military conflict since World War II. Under such conditions, we should expect an even greater surge of malicious propaganda, fake news, disinformation, and manipulation attempts. And most countries remain vulnerable to these threats.
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