US Military Hackers At Work Supporting Ukraine

General Paul Nakasone, chief of US Cyber Command (pictured) has announced “We’ve conducted a series of operations across the full spectrum; offensive, defensive, and information operations.” This is the first confirmation that the US is engaged in a digital conflict against Russia in support of the Ukraine government.

“Leading up to and during Russia’s unprovoked and illegal further invasion of Ukraine, the United States is supporting Ukraine’s continued access to the Internet and to enhance Ukraine’s cyber defenses. These efforts, coordinated across the US government,” the US Department of State confirmed.

US Cyber Command directs operations through its components. These include the Cyber National Mission Force-Headquarters, Joint Force Headquarters-DoD Information Network, the commander for which is dual-hatted as the Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency and Joint Task Force Ares.

General Nakasone also explained how separate "hunt forward" operations were allowing the US to search out foreign hackers and identify their tools before they were used against America. 

“We remain vigilant every single day. Every single day. I think about it all the time,” Nakasone told Sky News when asked about the risk of an intrusion. “This is why we’re working with a series of partners to ensure we prevent that, not only against the United States but against our allies as well.”   

Nakasone, who also serves as director of the National Security Agency, did not reveal details of the cyber hacking operations, but did tell the outlet that they were lawful and conducted with civilian oversight. “My job is to provide a series of options to the secretary of defense and the president, and so that’s what I do,” he said. It is unclear when the operations began or how many have occurred since Russia began its assault on Ukraine.

“When Moscow ordered the invasion in late February, we stepped up an already high operational tempo. We have been conducting additional hunt forward operations to identify network vulnerabilities.. “We provided remote analytic support to Ukraine and conducted network defense activities aligned to critical networks from outside Ukraine, directly in support of mission partners. In conjunction with interagency, private sector and Allied partners, we are collaborating to mitigate threats to domestic and overseas systems.” Nakasone, said to Congress in April.

The US government has long warned of Russian cyber attacks against America and its allies. In March, President Biden told US companies to tighten their digital defenses due to “evolving intelligence” that indicated Russia could launch various cyber attacks in retaliation for US sanctions imposed in response to the Ukraine invasion.

The FBI Director Christopher Wray has also warned that potential Russian cyber hacking operations would likely become “more destructive as the war keeps going poorly for them.” “We’ve seen the Russian government taking specific preparatory steps towards potential destructive attacks both here and abroad,” Wray said at a recent event.  He also revealed that the FBI has been on a “combat tempo” with a 24/7 command post to tackle potential Russian hacking threats. 

While there have not been any known Russian cyber attacks against the US since the start of the invasion, Ukraine has come under constant cyber attacks. Most notably, the US has accused Russia of carrying out a cyber attack against the Viasat KA-SAT network, cutting off Internet access for thousands of Ukrainians.

US State Dept:     US Cyber Command:      New York Post:      CNN:      Sky:    The Conversation

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