Beginning Wednesday night, a series of cyberattacks carried out by what appeared to be ISIS-backed hackers targeted French TV network TV5Monde, blacking out 11 of the network's channels and taking over its website and social media accounts. One of its channels was recovered Thursday as the network continued struggling to regain control of the rest of its systems.
The attack began at 10 p.m. local time when TV5Monde's channels went blank and the words "Je SuIS IS" took over normal programming, referencing the "Je Suis Charlie" rallying cry in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack in January. Director General Yves Bigot told the Associated Press that the attack continued into Thursday, and while the network has since restored its signal, it was only able to broadcast pre-recorded programs.
Whether the attack was carried out by ISIS or ISIS supporters, the incident is an unprecedented step in the group's information warfare tactics, the news wire reported, representing a new level of technological sophistication for the extremist group. Bigot told CNN that the incident was an "extremely powerful cyberattack," and added that a hack of this scale would have required months of preparation:
When you work in television and you hear that your 11 channels have been blacked out, it’s one of the most violent things that can happen to you. At the moment, we’re trying to analyse what happened: how this very powerful cyber-attack could happen when we have extremely powerful and certified firewalls.
Hackers also threatened French soldiers involved in anti-ISIS operations and posted documents on the network's Facebook page purportedly showcasing the personal information of said troops' relatives. According to The Guardian, the message read:
Soldiers of France, stay away from [ISIS]! You have the chance to save your families, take advantage of it. The CyberCaliphate continues its cyberjihad against the enemies of [ISIS].
According to Bigot, the perpetrators were not explicitly targeting the network in the message; rather, it was about France's Middle East policy. France is a member of the U.S.-led coalition that has aimed airstrikes at ISIS in Syria and Iraq, where the group is attempting to establish an Islamic state.
The Paris prosecutor's office launched a terrorism investigation into the cyberattack on Thursday, AP reported. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said in a tweet that the incident was “an unacceptable insult to freedom of information and expression.” Hackers claiming allegiance to ISIS previously took over Newsweek's Twitter page in February, and the month before hacked the U.S. military's Central Command Twitter page — but none have successfully hijacked an entire TV network and its online presence before.
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