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Countries In Europe Risk Exposing Themselves To US Espionage

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European countries are making themselves susceptible to Washington’s intelligence gathering, a French general has warned.

Since the war in Ukraine, the United States has sent several specialized teams to help countries feeling vulnerable to Russian cyber attacks. On the French side, they are worried that these steps will open the way to wider espionage operations.

Countries in Europe risk exposing themselves to US espionage by allowing Washington’s cyber defense teams monitor their networks. That’s according to General Aymeric Bonnemaison, the head of France’s Cyber Defense Command, as cited by the Le Monde newspaper on Friday. The concern comes as the US boosts its cyber forces abroad, in light of Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, the newspaper reported.

Bonnemaison reportedly told a weekly press briefing on Thursday that the increased activities of US cyber defense teams on European networks “raise questions.” The general was said to have described American operations as “relatively aggressive” during a closed-door hearing at the National Assembly’s Defense Committee last month.

He added that by allowing US cyber experts into their sensitive networks, Washington’s allies were exposing themselves to possible espionage, according to Le Monde. He warned that US teams “go quite far” in terms of intrusion. “They protect, but their presence is marked by their service to diplomacy,” the French cyber defense commander was quoted as saying.

According to the US Cyber Command, a partner nation can request that its teams deploy “strictly defensive” hunt forward operations (HFOs) on the host country’s network. The Cyber Command has conducted 35 such operations in 18 countries as of August 2022, including Estonia, Lithuania, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Ukraine, according to a statement on its website.

The Cyber Command said in November that it had deployed “its largest hunt forward team yet” to help Ukraine track “malicious” activities. “Although the hunt forward team is no longer deployed to Ukraine, Cybercom remains committed and continues to provide support to Ukraine, other allies and partner nations, with US joint forces aligned and supporting the European Theater,” the statement read.

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