Singapore – Netizens love it but a free software program on the Internet, which provides crucial details of sensitive buildings and locations, is giving security experts sleepless nights. The software, Google Earth, allows a person to download vivid aerial shots of any building, military camp, foreign embassy and even military airfield at any location the globe.
All one has to do is to type in the address and, with broadband connection, the picture pops up on the computer screen within five seconds. Countries like South Korea and Thailand are now worried that this technological wonder will make sensitive locations vulnerable targets for terrorist groups.
Singapore's Defence and Home Affairs ministries, in a joint statement to The Sunday Times, said: "As with many technologies and other resources on the Internet, Google Earth has the potential to be used for good or bad ends. This is something we take into account in our security planning."
A check by The Sunday Times showed that by using the software to check on buildings in Singapore, one could identify buildings belonging to the Ministry of Defence, a naval base, a military camp and even make out the tennis court and swimming pool at the Australian High Commission.
Terrorism experts said terror groups could increasingly use tools like Google Earth to get location details that even on-the-spot surveillance may not yield.
Dr Rohan Gunaratna, head of terrorism research at Singapore's Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, said: "Most terrorists collect their information from such open-source services. It is important for such services to be more aware of terrorist modus operandi and for governments to take appropriate measures."
Dr Sidney Jones, a Jakarta-based Jemaah Islamiah expert, added: "They have used the Web to get a list of multinational companies in Jakarta, so it's not impossible that they would move on to using other aspects of the Internet."
* Look what you can find on Google (The Sunday Times, Oct 9)