Internet is a new tool of terrorists, intelligence chiefs told


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Terror groups are becoming more computer savvy and are increasingly turning to the Internet to communicate, recruit new members and transfer funds, Malaysia’s defense minister warned Thursday.

Najib Razak, who is also deputy prime minister, urged Asia-Pacific intelligence agencies to deepen cooperation and boost their technological capabilities to counter the new threat from Internet-linked terrorism.

“Judging by the plethora of Web sites that belong to terror groups, it is clear that the modern-day international terrorist is becoming increasingly adept and proficient in the use of computers and the Internet,” he told a conference of Asia-Pacific intelligence chiefs.

“Initially used in their propaganda campaigns, their Web sites have now become tools for recruitment and the movement of finances and material across borders,” he said.

Najib said clandestine activities are increasingly taking place on the Internet, making it imperative for intelligence services to carefully analyze online materials.

“One of the challenges that I reckon that the intelligence services have to deal with will be the encoding of communications between militants or terrorist cells and groups,” he said.

“It is important to invest in improving our technological capabilities, develop close cooperation with the private sector and enhance cooperation with the technologically advanced countries.”

Najib said cyber attacks were emerging as a global phenomena, citing recent reports of hacking into Pentagon computers, and urged intelligence forces to be on the alert.

U.S. intelligence officials at the conference didn’t comment on British newspaper reports alleging that the Chinese military was responsible for the Pentagon hacking.

The three-day conference, which began Wednesday, is jointly organized by the Malaysian and U.S. defense departments to boost intelligence sharing in the region.

It involves military intelligence chiefs from Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Brunei, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Pakistan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, as well as from the U.S., Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand.

Russia, China, India and Laos were invited but didn’t participate, officials said. No reasons were given.

Najib also called for increased intelligence sharing and security cooperation in the Malacca Strait, through which half the world’s oil trade and a third of global commerce is transported.

Pirate attacks in the waterway have decreased in recent years and have not been linked to any terror groups, but security forces must be prepared for the threat of maritime terrorism, he added.