The US Air Force has revealed it possesses at least six cyber weapons in the latest example of the escalating cyber arms race taking place among leading nations.
Lieutenant general John Hycten said at least six computer programs and tools could be used as weapons, while speaking during a conference held in conjunction with the National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, according to Reuters.
Hyten said the use of the term weapon was largely a political move designed to help the Air Force compete for funding following widespread cuts to the US defence budget.
"It's very, very hard to compete for resources. You have to be able to make that case," said Hyten.
"This means that the game-changing capability that cyber is, is going to get more attention and the recognition that it deserves."
Hyten also revealed the Air Force has already taken measures to improve its cyber capabilities, confirming plans to expand its cyber workforce of 6,000 by a further 1,200 people, including 900 military personnel.
In the past the US government and military has been suspected of creating dangerous cyber weapons like Stuxnet and Flame.
Stuxnet was malware discovered targeting Iranian power plants in 2010. The malware was designed to sabotage infected nuclear power plants hampering progress in the country's nuclear programme.
Flame was a cyber espionage tool caught spying on Iranian government networks midway through 2012.
At the time of publishing, the US Air Force had not responded to V3's request for comment whether Hyten's use of the term weapon accurately described the programs, or the nature of their capabilities.
F-Secure analyst Sean Sullivan told V3 that the move is likely purely political, reiterating his belief that cyber weapons do not currently exist.
"I think the designation is designed to increase funding - but as a matter of technical merit, I'll stand by my earlier assertions that there's no such thing as a ‘cyber-weapon'. Legally speaking it's code," said Sullivan.
"Stuxnet is the most like a weapon - but even that only works in a particular place in a particular way. Which is an added legal complexity. I think it is better to focus on attack technologies, strategies and intentions rather than attempting to define tools as weapons."
The appearance of sophisticated attacks like Stuxnet and Flame has made cyber security a top agenda for numerous governments across the globe.
In the US, president Barack Obama recently issued an executive order designed to help improve the country's cyber defences during his 'state of the union' address in February.
The UK government has also taken several steps to improve the nation's cyber defences as a part of its wider Cyber Strategy.
Most recently the strategy saw the official launch of the country's Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CISP).
The partnership is designed to facilitate information sharing between government and private sector groups regarding cyber threats.
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