French television network TV5Monde was forced to broadcast only pre-recorded programs yesterday after an “unprecedented” hack by self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) militants, who also hijacked its Web sites and social networks.
The Paris-based company, whose programs are broadcast in more than 200 countries worldwide, was the target of a cyberattack that is “unprecedented for us and unprecedented in the history of television,” TV5Monde boss Yves Bigot said.
“Since 5am, we have only been able to put out a single program on all our channels. For the moment, we are unable to produce our own programs. We won’t be back up until 2pm,” Bigot added.
“When you work in television ... and you find out that your 11 channels are down, of course that’s one of the most dreadful things that can happen to you,” he said.
The hackers took control of the station and its social media operations late on Wednesday, blacking out the TV channels and posting documents on its Facebook page purporting to be the identity cards and resumes of relatives of French soldiers involved in operations against the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, 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 on TV5Monde’s Facebook page.
“The CyberCaliphate continues its cyberjihad against the enemies of Islamic State,” the message added.
TV5Monde regained control of its social networks by 2am yesterday, but television broadcasts were likely to take hours, if not days, to return to normal.
The attack would have required weeks of preparation, Bigot added.
Its Web site was still offline at 11am and displaying an “under maintenance” message.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the hack was an “unacceptable attack on the freedom of information and expression,” voicing “total solidarity with the editorial staff.”
Senior government members flocked to the station to show their support, with French Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve saying: “We are up against determined terrorists ... we are determined to fight them.”
French Minister of Foreign Affairs Laurent Fabius said: “Everything is being done to find those who carried this out, punish them, re-establish the programs and prevent cyberterrorists threatening freedom of expression in the future.”
The hackers had accused French President Francois Hollande of committing “an unforgivable mistake” by getting involved in “a war that serves no purpose.”
“That’s why the French received the gifts of Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher in January,” it said on the broadcaster’s Facebook page, referring to attacks by Muslim gunmen in Paris on the satirical magazine and Jewish supermarket that left 17 people dead over three days.
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