French culture minister calls urgent meeting after television network TV5Monde was taken over by individuals claiming to belong to Islamic State
Yves Bigot, the director-general of French TV network TV5Monde, says the company’s firewalls were breached by people with a deep knowledge of security and possible links to Islamic State.
The French culture minister has called an urgent meeting of media groups to assess their vulnerability to hacking after the television network TV5Monde was taken over by individuals claiming to belong to Islamic State, blacking out broadcasts and hacking its websites and Facebook page.
Visiting the network’s headquarters in Paris after the attack, Fleur Pellerin said she would bring together all heads of big French TV companies as well as newspaper groups and the news agency Agence France-Presse within 24 hours “to assure myself of their vulnerable points, any risks that exist and the best way to deal with it”.
The interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said an inquiry had been opened and that France had already increased its anti-hacking measures to protect against cyber-attacks following January’s gun attacks on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and the bloody hostage taking at a Kosher grocery store in Paris, which left 17 people dead.
The Socialist prime minister, Manuel Valls, called the attack on TV5Monde “an unacceptable insult to freedom of information and expression” and expressed his support for the editorial staff in a tweet.
For three hours on Wednesday night, between 10pm and 1am, all broadcasts were brought down in a blackout by hackers claiming allegiance to Isis. The hackers were able to seize control of the television network, simultaneously hacking 11 channels as well as its website and social media accounts.
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-Isis 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 on TV5Monde’s Facebook page. “The CyberCaliphate continues its cyberjihad against the enemies of Islamic State,” the message added.
TV5Monde had regained control of its social networks by 2am on Thursday but said television broadcasts were likely to take hours, if not days, to return to normal. On Thursday morning, the station had restored its signal but was still only able to broadcast pre-recorded material.
“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 the bloody twin attacks by Islamist gunmen in Paris which traumatised France.
France is part of a US-led military coalition carrying out air strikes against Isis in Iraq and Syria, where the jihadist group has seized swaths of territory and declared an Islamic “caliphate”.
More than 1,500 French nationals have joined the militants’ ranks, where they represent almost half the number of European fighters present, according to a report released on Wednesday by the French senate.