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'Persistent Engagement' Strategy Paying Dividends, Cybercom General Says

Nov. 10, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

In 2018, the Defense Department issued its Cyber Strategy report, which charges U.S. Cyber Command with defending forward and persistent engagement.

A man speaks during a virtual event.
Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles "Tuna" Moore
Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles "Tuna" Moore, deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command, provides keynote remarks at the virtual C4ISRNet CYBERCON 2021 event, Nov. 10, 2021.
Photo By: DOD Screenshot
VIRIN: 211110-O-D0439-001A

Air Force Lt. Gen. Charles "Tuna" Moore, deputy commander of Cybercom, provided keynote remarks today at the virtual C4ISRNet CYBERCON 2021 event.

Defending forward, he said, is "getting into the space of our adversaries, so that we can better defend the United States and our allies as well as our interests."

Persistent engagement, he said, "essentially says we want to be in constant contact with our adversaries. We want to be in a proactive posture and not in a reactive posture."

Moore provided some examples of the strategy.

Marines type on laptops.
Cyber Games
Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Nathaneal Register, with Marine Corps Cyberspace Warfare Group, Cyber Protection Team 651, uses his computer to test the vulnerability of opposing teams in the Marine Corps 2021 Cyber Games at Fort Meade, Md., Nov. 5, 2021.
Photo By: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Hailey Music
VIRIN: 211105-M-YK885-1050

Regarding criminal activities in cyberspace such as ransomware attacks, Moore said that the National Security Agency, along with Cybercom, are partnered with the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, along with allies and partners, to help thwart these attacks.

Cybercom is very much focused on election security in the United States, he said, adding that if the command detects malware and election threats to allies and partners, it has been willing to share some of its intelligence with them and help them address those vulnerabilities.

China remains the nation's pacing challenge, he said.

An airman inspects cyber gear.
Kit Inspection
Air Force Staff Sgt. Kyle Wilson, 374th Communications Squadron cyber transport supervisor, inspects a Communications Fly-away Kit at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Oct. 20, 2021.
Photo By: Air Force photo by Yasuo Osakabe
VIRIN: 211020-F-PM645-1063C

"The main thing that we're seeing from China inside the cyber domain is a lot of intellectual property theft that continues to occur. I don't have specific numbers, but I can tell you that I think you're talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in savings probably over the last decade plus. And, they probably saved decades of time from an R&D perspective, stealing intellectual property specific to the Department of Defense, from our DIB," he said, meaning research and development theft from the defense industrial base.

Therefore, Cybercom is working with the defense industrial base to protect intellectual property and stop them from being able to gain advantages, he said.

Airmen gather around a laptop.
Cyber Briefing
Air Force Staff Sgt. Tristan Bellotti, a security analyst with the 176th Communications Flight, Alaska Air National Guard, briefs Air Force 1st Lt. Kenneth Griffing, 673d Communications Squadron mission lead, about cyber threat statistics during Exercise Sentinel Reign VI, Oct. 28, 2021, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Photo By: Air Force Airman Andrew Britten
VIRIN: 211028-F-KB004-1012

Also, China has global aspirations from a military and economic perspective, not just in the Indo-Pacific region, he said. They also have global vulnerabilities. Thus, working through allies and partners is a way to take advantage of their vulnerabilities.

Cybercom has an incredible workforce, he said. The command has been instructed to empower these individuals, listen to their ideas and employ them as appropriate. Also, the command has invited academia, the private sector and allies to share their innovative ideas and solutions.