New Zealand could be an attractive target for terrorists, a visiting American security adviser warns.

Matthew Devost, a cyber terrorism expert and chief executive of the Virginia-based Terrorism Research Center, is in New Zealand on a United States’ State Department-sponsored tour to educate Kiwis about the potential for terrorist strikes in this country.

Cyber terrorism is the infiltration of computer networks to disrupt computer programmes or the systems they support, such as power and water utilities.

The fact New Zealand was a Western country “tied in to the global economy”, and the fact the “psychological ramifications” of a terrorist attack in this country would be the same throughout the world, meant it was an attractive target, he said yesterday.

This vulnerability was increased by the fact there were fewer security measures in place in New Zealand.

Mr Devost advocated “prudent security measures”, including intelligence-sharing with other governments.

“The fact that we still haven’t found our 20 most wanted Taleban/al-Qaeda leaders means they are distributed somewhere around the world, and it is going to require a global effort to try and locate them.

“The evidence we have seen shows that they have distributed themselves quite effectively, almost as if they had a continuity of operations or contingency plan after September 11.”

Mr Devost said this country could come under threat from neighbouring countries, including Indonesia, which he described as “future hotbeds for terrorist operations”.

Though the US was the super-power that attracted a lot of attention, the threat would “certainly” be global.

However, the US was the most at risk, because “that’s where you get the most bang for your buck”.

Though many people, including President George Bush, had placed hazy and indeterminate timelines on the war against terror, Mr Devost said a long-term, high-scale level of alert could breed public complacency.

As a result, at least in the US, people were trying to find a better balance between when it was in the best interests of national security to alert the public and when it was not.