Cyber Command deployed personnel on 22 missions in 17 countries last year, commander says

Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, March 11, 2024.

Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh testifies at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, March 11, 2024. Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

The DOD previously said it’d be taking a more offensive approach to cyberspace.

The Pentagon’s Cyber Command deployed its digital force in “hunt forward” missions 22 times to 17 countries in 2023, according to testimony delivered to the Senate Armed Services Committee by command leader Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh.

The missions were designed to root out hackers and slow adversaries’ cyber operations while gaining important defensive insights for future cyberwar, Haugh said, adding that the operations led to the release of some 90 malware samples for analysis in the cybersecurity community. 

CyberCom, a unified combatant command that amalgamates military service members across different branches, has historically not made those metrics public. It has provided broader figures of its operations since they began in 2018 but have not been logged on an annual basis.  

“Such disclosures can make billions of internet users around the world safer on-line, and frustrate the military and intelligence operations of authoritarian regimes,” Haugh said in prepared remarks.

The Pentagon has recently signaled a willingness to take more offensive steps to disrupt adversaries in cyberspace. It outlined in a strategy released last year that China and Russia are top cyberspace adversaries and vowing to go after cybercriminals or other groups that threaten U.S. interests.

Haugh, who also leads the National Security Agency as part of a long-standing "dual hat" arrangement, said the command is focused heavily on foreign actors overseas, signaling that hunt forward operations are likely to continue as U.S. network defenders keep an eye on election interference threats and other attempts to stifle the U.S. political process.