ISIS hackers seize control of France’s TV5Monde network in ‘unprecedented’ attack
Still unable to broadcast anything but pre-recorded programs after “unprecedented” cyber attack as French government denounces “act of terrorism”
Hackers claiming allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) on Thursday seized control of TV5Monde, France‘s international TV network, knocking out its 11 channels, website and social media accounts in an attack the government dubbed an “act of terrorism”.
TV5Monde was still struggling to regain control of its channels on Thursday morning, forced to broadcast only pre-recorded programmes after what its director called an “unprecedented attack in the history of television” in which its systems were “severely damaged”. It was back to normal operations by 8pm on Thursday night.
Yves Bigot, the network’s chief, said he was shaken when a black screen appeared across the entire network at around 10pm local time on Wednesday night.
“When we discovered the sense of the message appearing on our social media and our websites, it both allowed us to understand what was happening and obviously worried us,” he told RTL radio.
At the same time, a group calling itself CyberCaliphate issued a message on the website of TV5Monde, which broadcasts to 200 countries, stating: “I am IS” – another term for Isil.
Technicians later pulled this down and posted an “under maintenance” sign.
The French government on Thursday denounced the cyberattack as an “act of terrorism”. Manuel Valls, the prime minister, said the cyber strike was an “unacceptable attack on the freedom of information and expression”.
Fleur Pellerin, the culture minister, said: “I offer all my support and solidarity to the team at TV5Monde, victims of an obvious terrorist act.”
She said she would convene a crisis meeting with “representatives from the broadcast media and perhaps the written press” on Friday to look at ways of preventing a repeat of such an attack.
Bernard Cazeneuve, the interior minister, said an investigation had been launched into the channel hacking, adding:”We are facing determined terrorists and we are determined to fight them.”
The hackers posted documents on TV5Monde’s Facebook page purporting to be the identity cards and CVs of relatives of French soldiers involved in anti-Isil operations, along with threats against the troops.
“Soldiers of France, stay away from the Islamic State! You have the chance to save your families, take advantage of it,” read one message. “The CyberCaliphate continues its cyberjihad against the enemies of Islamic State,” it went on.
TV5Monde was due to launch on Thursday a new channel dedicated to French “art de vivre”. Mr Bigot said he doubted the attack was timed to coincide with this at it would have required weeks of preparation.
It occurred on the day that France’s Senate published a report revealing that almost half of European jihadists known to have travelled to territory held by Isil are French. Some 1,500 French nationals are thought to have travelled to the area.
France has moved to strengthen its cyber security in the wake of the January terrorist attacks in Paris by gunmen claiming links to Isil and al-Qaida in Yemen. Afterwards, the defence minister said hackers had targeted some 19,000 French websites.
Isil has claimed complex hackings before – a group with the same name hacked Newsweek’s Twitter feed in February – but this appears to be its most spectacular act of cyber warfare to date.
When the attack was over Fleur Pellerin, the culture minister, warned other French media to remain “vigilant”, saying they could not rule out “similar powerful attacks happening that are already planned”.