U.S. Cyber Command announced Tuesday that it completed its second “hunt forward” mission to uncover vulnerabilities in Lithuania’s networks.
The operation is one of dozens the elite digital warfighting organization has undertaken since 2018 as part of a larger push to help the U.S. government understand weaknesses or malicious activity in foreign systems and how they could impact networks back home. It’s the latest mission involving an Eastern European country since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Members of the command’s Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) worked for months alongside experts from Lithuania’s Information Technology and Communications Department, which is part of the country’s Ministry of the Interior.
Cyber Command did not specify what kind of networks the teams scoured, other than they were ones selected by the host government.
“We need to develop competences and be more resilient to cyberattacks. The war in Ukraine has shown that cyberattacks are a powerful tool of modern warfare, so it is extremely important to be prepared and to ensure the security of our networks,” Arnoldas Abramavičius, vice-minister of the Interior, said in a statement.
“I believe that the results of this mission will be mutually beneficial and contribute to creating a common area of security and democracy in our region,” he added.
Cyber Command previously deployed personnel to Lithuania, a former Soviet satellite state, directly because of Moscow’s invasion.
Speaking at the Billington Cybersecurity Conference in Washington last week, Cyber Command chief Army Gen. Paul Nakasone said his organization had sent its elite hackers on 50 different hunt forward operations in 23 countries across 77 networks since 2018. The missions are usually revealed well after they wrap up, usually at the request of the host nation. Cyber Command did not specify when the Lithuania mission occurred.
“Ultimately, what impacts one nation or network can impact us all and that is why we are fortunate to have opportunities such as these to work side by side with trusted partners in Lithuania,” CNMF chief Army Maj. Gen. Joe Hartman, who has been nominated to become Cyber Command’s next deputy chief, said in a statement.
Martin Matishak is a senior cybersecurity reporter for The Record. He spent the last five years at Politico, where he covered Congress, the Pentagon and the U.S. intelligence community and was a driving force behind the publication’s cybersecurity newsletter.