The Global Impact of U.S. Cyber Forces Abroad: A New Era in Cybersecurity Cooperation

The sun has set on the era of a united internet as we know it. For three decades, the United States rallied its allies and private sector to promote a digital world that is boundless, interconnected, global, and secure. But, regrettably, reality paints a different picture. The internet today is a far cry from what we envisioned - it is fractured, restricted, and increasingly perilous. Alas, things are likely to worsen as time passes by. This is the principal discovery of the CFR Independent Task Force, headed by Nathaniel Fick and Jami Miscik. 

The American policymakers believed that an open, all-embracing internet would bolster their country's strategic, economic, political, and foreign policy interests. They assumed that authoritarian, cloistered systems would falter when confronted with the domestic and international challenges that a worldwide network would pose. 

However, reality proved to be starkly different, and in some cases, reversed. The United States finds itself exposed to asymmetrical risks, thanks to its high level of digitization and a strong commitment to free speech. In the meantime, adversaries have evolved faster than expected, holding steadfast to their vision for cyberspace, devising strategies to achieve their interests, and making it more arduous for the United States to operate in this realm. Let’s explore how the US navigates these, treacherous waters. 

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Illustration: Lenka T

U.S. deploys more cyber forces 

At the RSA cybersecurity conference in San Francisco, a top U.S. military official announced that the nation is unleashing more of its digital warriors to assist foreign governments in the battle against cybercriminals.  

U.S. Army Major General William Hartman revealed that over the past three years, the Cyber National Mission Force has embarked on 47 “hunt forward” operations across 20 countries. These missions have been in response to requests from other nations to help shore up their cybersecurity defenses. Speaking about the increasing demand for such missions, General Hartman emphasized that no two were the same, making each operation a unique challenge for his team. 

As part of a wider effort by the U.S. government to enhance cooperation with foreign allies in the fight against cybercrime – a menace that knows no borders – the initiative is a testament to this shared commitment. Even the most notorious ransomware gangs have targeted nations far and wide, the United States included. In response, CNMF has sent forth a crack team of 43 specialists to Ukraine, a nation waging a relentless struggle against Russia’s cyber aggression. Dubbed “defense teams,” they scour the digital landscape for any sign of common adversaries, armed with cutting-edge tools and unparalleled expertise. 

Prevention mechanisms  

The CFR task force lays out a bold blueprint for U.S. foreign policy in the ever-evolving realm of cyberspace. To start, Washington must band together a coalition of allies and comrades to uphold a trustworthy, safeguarded international communication platform. Next, the United States must strike a delicate balance of pinpointed diplomatic and economic pressure on enemies, along with potent cyber operations, while also pledging to exercise self-imposed restraint on agreed upon targets with U.S. partners. Lastly, the United States must tidy up its own digital competition policies, seamlessly integrating them into the larger scope of national security strategy. 

Earlier in March, the Biden administration unleashed a brand new cybersecurity game plan that demands the unwavering commitment of software manufacturers and American enterprises to fortify their systems against malicious hackers.  

This initiative is complemented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Defense Department’s relentless pursuit to thwart the heinous acts of cyber criminals and ransomware syndicates all over the globe. For years, the government has been urging companies to adopt a proactive stance against potential intrusions by consistently reporting such incidents and diligently patching newly discovered software vulnerabilities – think of it like an iPhone’s automatic updates every few weeks. 

The Biden administration’s master plan aims to revolutionize the digital landscape by introducing radical alterations to its core dynamics. If put into effect as new regulations and laws, businesses will be mandated to implement minimum cybersecurity measures for critical infrastructure – and, in all likelihood, be held accountable for any cybersecurity mishaps. In essence, the new law will follow the precedent set by automakers and their suppliers, who are held responsible for faulty airbags or faulty brakes. 

International cooperation 

The call for cooperative efforts among states to mitigate the evolving cyber threats of our digital world has never been more pressing. From cybercrime and electronic espionage to bulk data interception and offensive operations, the potential for massive economic and societal damage looms on the horizon. We must recalibrate our international efforts to account for this new reality and take proactive measures to safeguard against emerging cyber threats. It’s time for a unified approach to cybersecurity. Here are a couple of things that can be done on an international level to uphold law and order in cyberspace.  

As cyberattacks between nations continue to escalate and technical attribution becomes increasingly complex, it’s time to explore the creation of an international cyber court. Picture a forum where only government-level cyber conflicts are tackled, and an independent and impartial panel of experts examines each case in-depth. Each party would be allowed to present their evidence, and the experts would scrutinize it to determine the veracity of the claims. This could be a game-changer in resolving disputes between nations, such as the ongoing tensions between the United States and Russia surrounding the 2016 U.S. elections. The establishment of such a court would signal a new era of accountability and cooperation in the world of cyber conflict. 

Let’s put an end to autonomous cyber weapons – those sneaky digital attackers that operate without any human involvement whatsoever. Take, for instance, the spooky U.S. project Monstermind that Edward Snowden famously revealed. These robotic fiends have no respect for national borders, often routing their attacks through innocent third countries, putting their citizens’ information in danger. We need to outlaw this dangerous practice once and for all.  

Streamline cyber incident attribution by harnessing the collective expertise of governments and the global tech community to enhance and modernize internet protocols. By empowering technical capabilities, we can enforce the basic tenets of international law, including noninterference in foreign affairs and fair electoral processes. Let’s hold nations accountable for their cyber activities and safeguard the sanctity of our virtual realm. 


Amidst the plethora of potential solutions to foster collaboration on the digital frontier and safeguard the global digital economy, these suggestions merely scratch the surface. Yet, of all these remedies, the most crucial is to expedite the establishment of cyber norms – a process that is currently lethargic at best.  

Currently, there is a glaring lack of a universal entity working to fortify international cooperation in the fight against cybercrime and no system to cultivate regulations for state conduct in cyberspace. This chasm of governance allows malevolent actors to exploit the internet as they please, without any repercussions.  

The U.S. is currently trying to take the lead role in cybersecurity efforts spurred on by the government. That ranges from sending more cyber commandos to battle “evil” regimes, thwarting hackers, and more recently, shifting the onus of cyber safety onto the private sector, where firms will be responsible for creating safer software. 

It goes without saying that this attempt by the U.S. would be doomed to failure without the cooperation of its coalition of allies, which for now, is steering in the right direction. It is simply too early to predict whether the U.S. will be successful in its attempt to “better” cyberspace, but so far, they’re having a good go at it.  

Dino Kurbegović is a project coordinator and an investor and technology enthusiast with years of experience in managing complex projects. His journey into content writing began in 2014, covering finance, investing, crypto, technology and complex technical topics.


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