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NEWS | May 22, 2024

CNMF deploys first defensive cyber team to Zambia

By Cyber National Mission Force Public Affairs

Cyber operators from U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force recently returned from the command’s first-ever defensive cyber deployment to Zambia, bringing back strengthened collaborative ties with the partner and actionable insights to harden Zambian and U.S. networks.

“As globalization and technology continue to expand exponentially, so too do threats to governments and economies,” said Michael Gonzales, U.S. Ambassador to Zambia, while advising the deployed team. “Zambia and the United States have long partnered on international peacekeeping to support regional security. This cyber security deployment expands our U.S.-Zambia collaboration to yet further dimensions.”

During the roughly three-month deployment, U.S. cyber forces worked alongside network defenders from the Zambian Information Communication Technology Authority, identifying vulnerabilities and searching for adversary malicious cyber activity.

“The connections we’ve been able to build with ZICTA are essential to what today’s information landscape requires between partners,” noted U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Claude Tudor, U.S. Africa Command director of operations. “This real-time cooperation is critical to strengthening the national security of Zambia, and ensuring secure and safe defense systems for both of our nations.”

A key component of U.S. Cyber Command’s persistent engagement strategy, Defend Forward operations are intelligence-driven, partner-focused and aimed at defending and disrupting malicious cyber activities while bolstering the homeland defense of the United States and its allies and partners. 

“Building the cybersecurity capacity and learning from our partners strengthen our collective global cybersecurity posture,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Lorna M. Mahlock, Cyber National Mission Force Commander. “A cornerstone of these operations is our service members working alongside our partners. The collaboration is key for both nations as we gain new insights on activities of our adversaries, and improve our collective defense.”

An example of this collective endeavor occurred when, during their analysis, the U.S. team discovered a specific vulnerability on the partner’s network. Leveraging the team’s findings and recommendations, the partner was able to eradicate the vulnerability.

“A fundamental element of our mission was actively exchanging up-to-date threats and adversary tactics, techniques and procedures with our partner to assist in safeguarding their networks,” said the operation’s mission commander. “This collaborative effort allowed us to pinpoint a specific vulnerability in their network and work with the partner as they remediated that threat and improved their network defenses.”

The cooperative nature of these missions not only helps the partner secure their networks, but can also yield valuable information on malign cyber actors’ techniques and procedures that the CNMF team can bring back and share broadly with public and private-sector network defenders.

Leveraging its Under Advisement program, CNMF is able to share insights gained from its missions abroad with private industry and interagency partners in the U.S., enabling them to harden cyber defenses before those threats can reach U.S. networks.

At the conclusion of the deployment, U.S. cyber operators provide a technical report of their analysis to the partner, enabling them to take steps toward bolstering their network defense and making it more difficult for malicious cyber actors to operate globally.

CNMF has deployed more than 60 times and conducted hunt operations in 28 countries since 2018.

ZICTA is a statutory body established under the Information and Communication Technologies Act No. 15 of 2009 to regulate the Information and Communication Technology sector. ZICTA is also responsible for the regulation of the Postal and Courier Services sector as well as providing oversight on cyber security in the country.