Cyber Command chief confirms US took part in offensive cyber operations

Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of U.S. Cyber Command, confirmed for the first time that the U.S. had conducted offensive cyber operations in support of Ukraine.

“We’ve conducted a series of operations across the full spectrum: offensive, defensive, [and] information operations,” Nakasone said in an interview Wednesday with Sky News, a British television news channel. 

Although the general did not provide specifics, he said the operations were lawful and conducted with civilian oversight of the military.

“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 told Sky News.

Nakasone previously said his agency deployed a “hunt forward” team in December to help Ukraine shore up its cyber defenses and networks against active threats. But his latest remarks appear to be the first time that a U.S. official said publicly that the U.S. has been involved in offensive cyber operations in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

The general, who was speaking in Tallinn, Estonia, told Sky News that the “hunt forward” operations have enabled the U.S. to look for foreign hackers and identify their strategies before they target the United States.

In the interview, Nakasone also said the U.S. is conducting operations to dismantle Russian propaganda, particularly disinformation campaigns that may influence elections. 

“We had an opportunity to start talking about what particularly the Russians were trying to do in our midterm elections. We saw it again in 2020, as we talked about what the Russians and Iranians were going to do, but this was on a smaller scale,” Nakasone said. 

“The ability for us to share that information, being able to ensure it’s accurate and it’s timely and it’s actionable on a broader scale, has been very, very powerful in this crisis,” he added.

Experts have warned that Russia will likely deploy its cyber operations in the 2022 midterm elections, which may take different forms, including disinformation campaigns and election hacking. The experts also said that Russia’s playbook is to divide the U.S. along party lines and suppress voter turnout.

Tags Cyberwarfare Paul Nakasone US Cyber Command

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