Six cybertools have been designated as weapons by the U.S. Air Force, allowing the programs to better compete for increasingly scarce Pentagon funding, an Air Force official said on Monday.
Lt. Gen. John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, told a conference held in conjunction with the National Space Symposium that the new designations would boost the profile of the military's cyberoperations as countries grapple with attacks originating from the Internet.
"This means that the game-changing capability that cyber is, is going to get more attention and the recognition that it deserves," Hyten told conference attendees, according to a Reuters account of the speech. "It's very, very hard to compete for resources. ... You have to be able to make that case."
Hyten, who said the Air Force was working to integrate cybercapabilities with other weapons, offered no details on the new cyberweapons.
The Air Force plans to increase its cyber workforce by 20 percent, adding 1,200 people to its current 6,000, he said.
"We have to do this quickly. We cannot wait," he said.
It's widely believed that the United States and Israel created Stuxnet, a sophisticated computer virus that attacked a nuclear enrichment facility in Iran in 2010. Rather than steal data, Stuxnet left a backdoor, meant to be accessed remotely, to allow outsiders to stealthily knock the facility offline and at least temporarily cripple Iran's nuclear program.
U.S. officials have blamed Iran for creating the Shamoon virus, which was responsible for a cyberattack that infected more than 30,000 computers at Saudi Arabian oil company Saudi Aramco and Qatar's natural gas firm Rasgas in mid-August.