For at least the second time this year, U.S. cyber forces have come to the aid of a Baltic ally, as concerns linger about potential cyberattacks from Russia and other Western adversaries.
U.S. Cyber Command Tuesday announced the completion of a two-month-long, so-called “defensive hunt” operation in Lithuania, alongside Lithuanian cyber teams.
The focus of the operation, according to a spokesperson with the U.S. Cyber National Mission Force, was to look for malicious cyber activity on networks belonging to Lithuania’s Interior Ministry.
Neither U.S. nor Lithuanian officials were willing to specify the exact nature of the threat, but just last year Vilnius was hit with a series of distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS), claimed by the Russian hacking group known as Killnet.
“We need to develop competences and be more resilient to cyberattacks,” Lithuanian Vice Minister of the Interior Arnoldas Abramavičius, said in the joint statement.
“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,” said Abramavičius. “I believe that the results of this mission [with the United States] will be mutually beneficial.”
The U.S. Cyber National Mission Force spokesperson, speaking to VOA on the condition of anonymity to discuss limited details of the operation, said the effort involved about 20 U.S. cyber troops, hunting for malicious activity and potential vulnerabilities under guidelines set by Vilnius.
This is at least the second time U.S. cyber forces have deployed to Lithuania. U.S. Cyber Command said its forces conducted similar operations in the country last May.
And both Vilnius and Washington have also been working on a continuous basis through Lithuania’s Regional Cyber Defense Center, set up in 2021, to further coordinate efforts with Ukraine, Georgia and Poland.
Word of the completion of the latest U.S-Latvian cyber operation comes just days after a top U.S. intelligence official warned the cyber threat from Moscow has not waned as Russia’s war against Ukraine drags on.
“The Russians are increasing their capability and their efforts in the cyber domain,” CIA Deputy Director David Cohen told a cybersecurity summit in Washington on Thursday.
“There are no laurels to be rested on here,” he said. “There is this is a pitched battle every day.”
Concerns about possible Russian cyber activity also prompted what U.S. officials described as a “hunt forward” operation in Latvia earlier this year that also involved Latvian and Canadian cyber forces.
Since 2018, U.S. cyber teams have deployed 50 times, conducting operations on more than 75 networks in more than 23 countries, according to information provided by the U.S. Cyber National Mission Force.
Some information from Reuters was used in this report.