Islamic State Hacks French TV Station TV5Monde

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Mon dieu! French culture minister demands urgent meeting after Islamic State blacks out TV broadcasts

Islamic State has scored another propaganda victory after its hackers claiming to support the terrorist organisation hacked a French television station TV5Monde.

The broadcaster was hacked late on Wednesday according to Yahoo News, which cited a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP).

TV Blackout

The damage from the hack was fairly epic in scale for the French TV channel as the hackers managed to seized control of the French television network, and simultaneously blacked out 11 TV channels between 10pm and 1am. To make matters worse, the hackers also took over the network’s website and social media accounts.

The TFrance hacker download attack security french © ShutterstockV channel was thus unable to broadcast for three hours, and the company’s websites and social networks were hijacked with the words “Cybercaliphate” and “Je suIS IS”, according to Yahoo.

Director general Yves Bigot confirmed that the TV station was off air for three hours overnight.  Systems had been “severely damaged” by the “unprecedented attack”.

And it seems that the Islamic State hackers made good use of their time in control of the French TV station. They used its Facebook page to post documents claiming to be identity cards and CVs of relatives of French soldiers involved in anti-IS operations.

The hackers also posted threats against French troops. “Soldiers of France, stay away from the Islamic State! You have the chance to save your families, take advantage of it,” one message apparently read.

“The CyberCaliphate continues its cyberjihad against the enemies of Islamic State,” the message added.

“We are no longer able to broadcast any of our channels,” said Bigot, speaking at the time of the hack. “Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control and are all displaying claims of responsibility by Islamic State.”

The hackers also warned that President Francois Hollande of making “an unforgivable mistake” by getting involved in “a war that serves no purpose”. France, along with the UK and the United States, is part of a military coalition carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria.

Expert Take

And at least one security expert is very concerned at this attack, which managed to disrupt television broadcasts.

“This attack on TV5 Monde is the latest in a series of politically motivated cyber attacks,” said Edward Parsons, Senior Manager at KPMG’s cyber security practice. “Until recently the most effective attacks have been conducted by groups closely aligned to state powers, with the recent attacks on US media outlets and financial institutions serving as an example of this. Unfortunately the capabilities and infrastructure previously reserved for nation states and their proxies have been commoditised and made available to all in online criminal marketplaces.

“At this stage it’s hard to assess the damage of this attack, beyond the reputational damage caused by website defacements and social media hijacking, but the disruption to broadcasts points is a concerning development.

“We have seen similar tactics being used in recent attacks against other media companies, where data theft has been coupled with material damage to servers and desktop computers,” he added. “We may therefore see politically motivated cyber attacks become more damaging.”

Urgent Meeting

Meanwhile the Guardian newspaper reports that the French culture minister has called an urgent meeting of media groups to assess their vulnerability to hacking.

Fleur Pellerin reportedly visited the network’s Paris headquarters, and said she would bring together all heads of big French TV companies as well as newspaper groups and the news agency Agence France-Presse within 24 hours “to assure myself of their vulnerable points, any risks that exist and the best way to deal with it”.

Hackers claiming to be sympathetic to the Islamic State have also recently attacked other targets as well.Earlier this week, the FBI warned that individuals sympathetic to the Islamic State were targeting a range of different websites, using known vulnerabilities in WordPress.

And earlier this year, social media accounts linked to the US military suffered a cybersecurity attack from hackers claiming to support the Islamic State.

The @CENTCOM Twitter account, representing the US command that oversees operations in the Middle East, was hacked and defaced with messages praising Islamic State.

US President Barack Obama recently created a new sanctions scheme after he signed an executive order that classified malicious cyber attacks as a “national emergency”.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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