U.S. Cyber Command’s premier digital warfighting organization on Wednesday announced it deployed a team of defensive operators to Zambia for the first time last year. 

Members of the command’s Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) worked with personnel from the Zambian Information Communication Technology Authority, which is responsible for cybersecurity oversight in the country, for roughly three months in 2023 to identify network vulnerabilities and search for malicious cyber activity. 

“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,” the operation’s unnamed mission commander said in a statement. 

“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.”

A CNMF spokesperson declined to provide additional information about the weakness or how many U.S. personnel were deployed.

The operation is part of so-called “hunt forward” missions the command has performed since 2018 to help the U.S. glean insights about weaknesses or malicious activity in foreign systems and potentially provide advance notice of adversary tactics before they strike networks at home.

The disclosure of such operations is usually delayed at the request of the country that invited the U.S. to scour its networks, in part because they don’t want adversaries to sniff out potential vulnerabilities before they can be cauterized.

Last month, the head of Cyber Command told congressional lawmakers the command carried out 22 such operations in 2023 alone

Last year also marked the first time in the command’s history that hunt forward missions occurred “simultaneously” in all of the areas of responsibility of the Pentagon’s geographic combatant commands — Europe, Africa, Indo-Pacific, Central, Northern and Southern.

“Zambia and the United States have long partnered on international peacekeeping to support regional security,” Michael Gonzales, U.S. Ambassador to Zambia and an adviser to the deployed team, said in a statement. “This cyber security deployment expands our U.S.- Zambia collaboration to yet further dimensions.”

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