U.S. Cyber Command Operation Targets ‘Real-life Cyber Threats’

[ This article was originally published here ]

US Cyber Command Operation TargetsA U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) task force has conducted “its first offensive cyber effect operation against real-life cyber threats.” Details of the operation have not been published, but the military says offensive cyberspace operations are “intended to project power by the application of force in or through cyberspace.”

News of the operation, conducted by USCYBERCOM’s Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) from February to August 2021, came in a news release from the Maryland Air National Guard’s 175th Cyber Operations Group, which took part in the mission.

“USCYBERCOM’s CNMF plans, directs and synchronizes full-spectrum cyberspace operations to deter, disrupt and, if necessary, defeat adversary cyber actors to defend the U.S.,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Corley Bradford, director of operations for 175th Cyberspace Operations Squadron, 175th Wing.

The operation involved the security of Department of Defense information networks, according to Bradford.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III visited the command center during the operation. “He wanted front row seats to see the action first-hand,” Bradford said.

Taking Action

News of the operation comes on the heels of a White House summit in August with technology, finance, energy and education leaders to discuss ways to bolster cybersecurity. Following the event, (ISC)² ran an open-ended poll of global cybersecurity practitioners to gauge their reaction.

Three major themes emerged from the poll:

  • The summit was a positive step in the right direction
  • Some respondents were cautiously optimistic and wanted to see more action
  • Some were deeply skeptical of the event’s effectiveness

For those wanting to see more action, the USCYBERCOM operation is likely welcome news. It was clear from many of the poll’s responses that many in the private sector feel their organizations have become sitting ducks for cyber attackers. Some called for cooperation between government and private enterprise to address what has become a severe global problem.

One of the biggest cyberattacks to date took place in late 2020 when Russian cyber attackers slipped malicious code into a SolarWinds software update that compromised more than 200 organizations around the world, including the U.S. Treasury and Commerce Departments, NATO and the European Parliament.

Another major attack came in May 2021 against Colonial Pipeline, disrupting the delivery of fuel along the Eastern Seaboard and causing gas station lines harkening back to the 1970s. Since USCYBERCOM revealed no details of its “offensive cyber effect operation,” it isn’t publicly known whether the mission was in any way related to those attacks.