The ISIS cyber-attack brigade seems to have been put back to work after a French television claimed to have been victim of hackers pledging their allegiance to the Islamic State. French broadcaster TV5Monde announced that late Wednesday an “extremely powerful” cyber-attack brought down all its systems, from production and broadcasting facilities to email accounts.
The television broadcasting systems were not the only target of the hackers. According to TV5Monde officials, the attackers also took control of the media company’s identity on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter accounts. Users witnessed how generic propaganda messages in favor of Jihad and the Islamic State began flooding the television’s accounts on Wednesday, but there were also some more specific threats.
Same as they did a few weeks ago, when they published personal details of US army personnel and urged all sympathizers to kill or capture them, the alleged ISIS hackers unveiled on Wednesday the identity of several French army workers. Fortunately for those exposed, the French broadcaster quickly regained control of its social media accounts, as the cyber-attack ended.
French officials claimed the attackers had access to high-end technological capabilities in order to successfully break the servers of TV5Monde and its internet accounts. “Those terrorists, as they are certainly terrorists—we are checking on the claim—are using the most advanced technologies,” French foreign minister Laurent Fabius described the incident. “Everything is being done to find the authors, punish them, re-establish broadcasting and then prevent such cyberterrorism attacks from threatening freedom of speech in the future.”
Information security experts have been put on alert after the Islamic State’s cyber branch recent achievements. Although there is no evidence tying together this incident with the US army social media accounts hacking, neither is there any clear indication on the actual links between ISIS and the hackers, the latest events do prove on thing. Terrorists have been enhancing their technological warfare capacities, and some wonder how long it will take before some Jihadists will be able to actually take control of a television.
It is clear that propaganda is a point of main concern for the Islamic State and taking over a TV station without physically assaulting it might sound very tempting to the Islamists. ISIS has been intensifying its activity on social media lately, and even launched its first magazine in English, named Dabiq.
French officials put the cyber-attack on TV5Monde in a broader picture, and accused the hackers of having performed an attack on culture and on the freedom of expression. Prime Minister Manuel Valls dubbed the actions as an “unacceptable attack on the freedom of information and expression.” Meanwhile, Culture Minister Fleur Pellerin held a meeting with the heads of the largest media companies in France on a topic never before debated in a Ministry of Culture boardroom: cybersecurity.
The hack could aggravate ethnical tensions in France, a country hosting a large Muslim population. Many experts, such as historian Andrew Hussey, argue that anti-semitism and Islamophobia are on the rise in France, and ISIS seems determined to exploit any potential crisis.
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