Cyber-terrorists using hacking methods to target governments: US official

Cyber-terrorists are attempting to penetrate government networks using the same methods as Internet hackers and many nations are vulnerable to the threat, a US State Department official said.

Michael Alcorn, branch chief of the State Department's Office of Anti-Terrorism Assistance, said terrorists were becoming more tech-savvy.

"The same technique that a hacker would use, the same technology, will be utilized by somebody with a different political motivation," said Alcorn at the close of a week-long training workshop here on cyber-terrorism.

During the course, held in conjunction with the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism, officials from Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines were trained on assessing weakness in government networks and how to protect them.

"The problem we're all facing is a global borderless problem, where attacks can occur anywhere in the world and originate from anywhere else in the world," Alcorn told reporters.

"We're starting to see more expertise within the terrorist ranks, so we're reaching out to the countries we have close relationships with and trying to plan a partnership and plan for this type of thing in the future."

When asked if many countries were vulnerable to cyber attacks, Alcorn replied: "In many areas of the world, yes."

Alcorn said governments were preparing for assaults on networks after past incidents where extremists had looked into such attacks.

He said much of the information about such attempts had come from "different types of law enforcement activity around the world."

"They are confiscating computers and they're finding evidence on these computers that indicates (militants) have looked into or are researching this type of technology," he said.

Alcorn also said militants were increasingly using the Internet to communicate and that there was a need to clamp down on this.

"They're using the Internet and some of the same technology to produce propaganda, recruit online and communicate," he said.

"Communication is a real big issue right now, it's how many of the terrorists are plotting their plans so it's something we need to address as well."

Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse.