Air Force classifies cybersecurity tools as weapons

It is easier to get funding for tools once they are labeled weapons

By Natasha Lennard

Published April 10, 2013 12:39PM (EDT)


While the U.S. Air Force and other military branches have for a number of years been developing and using a host of cyber tools with offensive capabilities, only this week have a number of these tools been officially classified as weapons. Six unnamed tools have been classified as weapons by the Air Force, a general announced at a Colorado Springs conference Monday. What to the tools are and do has not been made public. The weapons classification is, above all, an effort to get more funding for these cyber tools.

"It is a semantic move that has little, if anything, to do with the tools themselves or how they're used," noted The Kapersky Lab Security News Service:

The Air Force has emerged as one of the key military branches for offensive and defensive cyber capabilities. The U.S. Cyber Command is the overarching strategic command that's responsible for cybersecurity operations, and it comprises groups from the Army, Navy and Air Force. But it's the Air Force that has become the most vocal and public about its capabilities and intentions when it comes to cybersecurity.

At a conference in Colorado Springs on Monday, an Air Force general said that the branch has now classified six of its cyber capabilities as weapons. The move is an effort to make it easier for the Air Force, and presumably other branches as well, to get funding for these tools.

"It's very, very hard to compete for resources ... You have to be able to make that case," Lt. Gen. John Hyten said during the National Space Symposium.

It is notable that it's easier to get funding for a security tool if it officially labeled a weapon.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Cyberattacks Cybersecurity U.s. Air Force U.s. Military Weapons