US Launches Defensive Hunt Operation

( – A US cyber warfare team deployed to eastern Europe has carried out a “defensive hunt operation” against enemy hackers. US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) says it’s the second deployment to the region this year, following an earlier one in the spring.

On September 12, Newsweek reported that CYBERCOM told them a team from the Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) recently deployed to Lithuania for several months, to conduct a defensive hunt. This technique involves analyzing friendly computer networks, looking for both security vulnerabilities and any sign of hacker activity.

While the CMNF didn’t want to reveal details of their methods, this is the second time they’d carried out a “Defend Forward” operation in Lithuania this year. From February to May the force hunted through the country’s defense and foreign ministry’s networks, in what CYBERCOM said was the first joint cyber operation between the US and Lithuania.

This time around, CYBERCOM didn’t reveal what networks it had been targeting, beyond saying they had been “prioritized by the partner.” CNMF commander Maj Gen Joe Hartman stressed that “Cyber threats rarely occur in a vacuum,” and said working with Lithuania gave the US an opportunity to learn.

The Baltic state has been the target of multiple Russian cyber attacks. For example, last year it cut off traffic between Russia proper and the Russian-controlled Kaliningrad enclave as part of EU sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine; within days a massive Distributed Denial of Service attack hit multiple Lithuanian government agencies and media outlets.

Defend Forward operations are CNMF’s main tactic for protecting against attacks, by finding vulnerabilities before they’re exploited and spotting the first signs of an attacker probing a network. A Lithuanian minister said the joint operation would help to build “a common area of security and democracy” in the Baltic region, which was ruled by Moscow until the USSR collapsed in 1991.

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