Hackers claiming to be part of 'Cyber Caliphate', which has previously hacked Newsweek and taken over the social media accounts of the US CENTCOM, reportedly compromised the TV network, took charge of its Facebook accounts and even uploaded photos which it claimed were of personal IDs and CVs of the relatives of French soldiers participating in the campaign against ISIS.
After around three hours of no service, broadcast resumed on early Thursday morning (although initially the network was only airing pre-recorded material), with social media networks back in control by around 2am GMT. Director general Yves Bigot called it an “unprecedented” attack.
“We are no longer able to broadcast any of our channels. Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control and are all displaying claims of responsibility by Islamic State,” Bigot told Agence France-Presse (AFP). He later claimed the network regained control of its website and Facebook page, although TV broadcasts took longer to return to normal.
“The CyberCaliphate continues its cyber-jihad against the enemies of Islamic State,” read one of the hacker group's messages on the network's Facebook page. “Soldiers of France, stay away from the Islamic State! You have the chance to save your families, take advantage of it.” The threats were reportedly displayed in French, Arabic and English.
Hackers also accused French President Francois Hollande of committing a “grave mistake” by getting involved in the war against ISIS, AFP reported. France is part of an international coalition carrying out airstrikes on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.
Although the point or points of compromise remain unknown at this time, it has been said online that hackers logged in with a privileged user account, taking control of the network's server. At this point, they changed passwords for normal admins and stopped services.
Some industry commentators speculated on Twitter that the security hole may have come as a result of Ericsson providing a new broadcast platform for TV5Monde. The TV network didn't respond to our requests for comments on this at the time of writing.
Adrian Culley, an independent security consultant and former Met Police Computer Crime Unit detective, told SCMagazineUK.com that the hack pointed to more than one compromises, spoke of social media being used for an ‘asymmetrical war' and highlighted the significance of the attack.
“This, to my knowledge, is the first time there's been mention of a cyber-terrorist attack…This is a game-changer, it's unprecedented.”
He added that the attack proved there was ‘clearly no plan B as far as business continuity is concerned' and said that TV networks would continue to be targets in the move to digital transmission.
But, of most concern, he said that the UK should take note as 80 percent of critical national infrastructure is owned by commercial companies, with TV broadcasting part of that percentage.