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US air force deems some cyber tools to be 'weapons'

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Six cyber tools have been designated as weapons by the US air force.

According to Reuters, Lieutenant General John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, said the new designations would help ‘normalise' military cyber operations as the US military works to keep up with rapidly changing threats.

Hyten said that with this designation, this could help programs compete for a share of the defence budget and give cyber more attention. Speaking at the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Hyten said the recent decision by Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh to designate certain cyber tools as weapons would help ensure funding. "It's very, very hard to compete for resources. You have to be able to make that case," he said.

While Hyten said that the US air force is also working to better integrate cyber capabilities with other weapons, he gave no details on the new cyber weapons, but did say that the Pentagon has become more open over the past year about its work to develop offensive cyber capabilities in the face of escalating cyber attacks.

Jarno Limnéll, doctor in military science and director of cyber security at Stonesoft, said: “Increased funding and the normalisation of cyber tools as a form of weaponry, coupled with leaks that President Obama now has the authority to initiate a preventive cyber strike in the face of a looming attack on the US, shows it is difficult to imagine future wars without cyber activities.

“The development of advanced forms of computer network attacks, such as Stuxnet, require investments of both time and capital. The classification of cyber capabilities as weapons shows it is clear the world has entered a new arms race era. This will become increasingly active as governments launch attacks, create malware, write Trojans and infect computers to achieve their political objectives.

“Cyber capabilities are a fifth dimension of warfare – in addition to land, sea, air and space – and while it's unlikely future battles will be completely online, it is difficult to imagine future wars or conflicts without cyber activities.”

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