New Zealand is a juicy target for terrorism despite being far from the world’s troublespots, a visiting American security adviser warns.

Matthew Devost, a cyber-terrorism expert and chief executive of the Virginia-based Terrorism Research Centre, is being sponsored by the United States State Department to brief New Zealand organisations on the danger posed by terrorism.

Mr Devost said any complacency on the part of authorities or businesses could attract terrorists to New Zealand.

“The vulnerability is something that terrorists will exploit. The thing to remember is this is part of Western society and part of the global economy. Any attack that happens in New Zealand would have reverberations throughout the world.”

While conventional attacks aimed at causing “mass casualties” needed to be a focus, cyber-terrorism was a significant emerging threat, he said.

Much of modern society relied on computer technology, and crippling financial institutions or disrupting supplies of water, gas, or oil could devastate a country’s morale and economy.

Mr Devost said even though no system could be completely secured, action was needed now to minimise risk.

“Most infrastructures are pretty vulnerable right now.”

Terrorist organisations such as al-Qaeda remained strong despite the war on terror, and threats to New Zealand’s security could arise from almost anywhere. It was no good simply concentrating on areas like the Middle East.

“There are just so many regions that are potential problem areas,” he said. Terrorism was here to stay.

The resources, patience, and commitment of terrorists meant more attacks were almost certain.

16 September 2002