The US Air Force has designated six of its cyber capabilities as weapons, addressing a growing threat of cyber attacks against military and civilian targets.

The US Air Force has designated six of its cyber capabilities as weapons, addressing a growing threat of cyber attacks against military and civilian targets.

 
The classification highlights the newfound importance of the ability to attack and defend using digital means, and opens up the sector for more funding, including money that is normally only reserved for research and development of weaponry.
 
Lieutenant General John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, described cyber tools as “game-changing” and said the the new designations will give this area the attention and recognition that it deserves.
 
The actual details or nature of the six cyber weapons was not revealed, likely because doing so would give enemy states a head start on preparing defences. It is possible they include specially-crafted malware to disable systems or allow surveillance.
 
 
US intelligence officials have labelled cyber attacks as the greatest threat to the country, replacing the previous top threat of terrorism. Numerous reports have surfaced highlighting the vulnerability of key infrastructure, including energy grids, water plants, nuclear facilities, and oil rigs.
 
The potency of cyber weapons was seen with the Stuxnet virus, which crippled Iran's nuclear reactors. While it is not known who carried out the attack, it is largely believed to have been orchestrated by Israel with the help of the US.
 
The US Air Force is also planning to increase its cyber team, adding 1,200 people to its existing 6,000. 900 of these will be military personnel. This is likely to be only a small part of growing investment in cyber defences as the threat continues to mount.
 
Source: Reuters
Image Credit: US Air Force