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Cyber spies invade the shadowy world of would-be terrorists

Jason Koutsoukis (SMH) | June 26, 2011
What the internet did for pornography, it has also done for terrorism.

What the internet did for pornography, it has also done for terrorism.

So says Israeli intelligence consultant Gadi Aviran, whose clients include Israel's secret service, the Mossad, as well as a host of foreign governments, security agencies and multinational corporations.

''Whatever you want, whatever your desire, whatever it is that you can imagine doing, you can find it online,'' Aviran says.

"All you need is an individual with the desire - and the trigger - to switch into action." ... Gadi Aviran, Israeli intelligence consultant.

"All you need is an individual with the desire - and the trigger - to switch into action." ... Gadi Aviran, Israeli intelligence consultant.

''Sophisticated instruction manuals on how to build bombs, where to buy the components, how to detonate them, video tutorials. Whatever a wannabe terrorist needs is out there in the cloud.''

In a discreet warehouse located on a farming commune 15 kilometres north of Tel Aviv, Aviran's company Terrogence employs a small army of cyber spies who infiltrate the password-protected internet chat rooms and online forums that are being frequented by would-be bombers who want to plot, plan and discuss potential attacks.

Founded more than seven years ago, Aviran recruits mostly from the ranks of ex-military intelligence officers who can bundle the kind of expertise that is often too difficult for many of his clients to collect themselves.

''In the operations room here we have people who are fluent in Arabic, Farsi, Chinese, French, Spanish, Portuguese and English,'' Aviran says.

''We knock on the front door of these websites and chat rooms, we build trust, then we enter and start listening. As far as anyone else is concerned, we are them.''

Given the long list of well-paying clients who want to know exactly what is going on in the shadowy world of international terrorism, business is thriving.

''We are present in some fairly dark corners of the internet, monitoring, gathering information, watching discussions unfold in real time about how to plan attacks on mostly Western targets,'' he says.

Gone are the days, Aviran says, when aspiring militants take themselves off to training camps to learn how to use violence to promote an extremist agenda.

''All you need is an individual with the desire - and the trigger - to switch into action,'' says Aviran.

''You can do it all yourself, without even leaving a footprint. Just walk into an internet cafe, download what you need onto a flash drive, load it into your home computer and start planning.''

 

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