'Computer-savvy' terrorists using Internet as a weapon

17th April 2009, Comments 0 comments

"Information technology and particularly the Internet has become a key tool of terrorist groups as well as a potential target," said Mike Smith, the head of the UN Counter Terrorism Committee.

San Lorenzo de el Escorial -- "Computer-savvy" terrorists are using the Internet as a new weapon but national authorities must be aware of individual rights when combating the threat, speakers at an international conference said Thursday.

"Information technology and particularly the Internet has become a key tool of terrorist groups as well as a potential target," said Mike Smith, the head of the UN Counter Terrorism Committee.

"Terrorists use it to spread their ideology, to recruit, train and motivate their followers, to plan their attacks and communicate with each other across borders."

However, he said fighting the threat has become "extraordinarily challenging."

He was speaking at the opening of the Conference on Terrorism and Cyber Security being held in San Lorenzo de El Escorial outside Madrid under the auspices of the Council of Europe human rights body and the Organisation of American States.

The secretary general of the pan-European Council of Europe, Terry Davies, told the conference that governments and law enforcement bodies must be conscious of individual freedoms when fighting the threat of cyber terrorism.

"The Internet may be used as a new unconventional weapon harnessed by a new computer-savvy generation of terrorists," he said.

"It is our responsibility -- as policymakers and experts -- to work out how to stop them and when necessary...

"Our approach must strike a fair balance between individual rights and the interests of society, a delicate balance but a fundamental one in times of crisis -- be it an economic crisis or the destabilisation of the State by terrorist acts.

"Whatever the danger we face, we must ensure the preservation of these common values."

Juan Miguel Alcantara, the Mexican chair of the Inter-American Committee Against Terrorism, agreed.

"If terrorists are seeking to destroy our way of life, our democratic system, the way to stop them is not to destroy our own rights," he told the conference.

Raphael Perl, head of the Action Against Terrorism Unit of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe warned of the threat from the Al Qaeda terror group.

"The Al-Qaeda leadership is dreaming of and planning for a (cyber) attack that will greatly dwarf 9/11, the goal of which is to bring down the Western capitalistic economy," he told AFP.

Davies appealed for greater cooperation among states as "the threat knows no boundaries, and our response must be international."

Perl however conceded that getting an international agreement on the issue is a "major challenge."

"But at the same time we can get cooperation on picking up trends -- like an early warning system. so if something happens in one country we immediately let everyone else know," he said.

AFP/Expatica

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