Fade to Black: Major French Television Station Taken Off-Air by ISIS Hackers


An attack by the so-called “CyberCaliphate” late Wednesday evening took out 11 television channels of France’s TV5MONDE network as well as its website and social media accounts. The network director is now warning the damage could take days to repair.

The attack was launched against TV5MONDE, a station focussing on projecting French culture and news around the globe, at around 2200 Wednesday evening, causing a blackout across the network. TV5MONDE’s channels are broadcast to over 200 countries worldwide.

Network director Yves Bigot said they had been “severely damaged”: “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 said he believed the attack would have taken weeks of planning and preparation.

Although the television channels and social media pages had been reclaimed by the early hours of this morning, a spokesman for TV5MONDE said they would be unable to resume ordinary operation for some time. The attack had knocked out their capability to broadcast pre-recorded shows, or even create live news programmes, they said.

After the hackers took over the social media pages of the network, they posted a number of messages criticising France for becoming the primary military partner to the United States in the campaign to take on the Islamic State. Directly targeting the troops fighting the war with threats against them, messages included copies of the identity documents purporting to belong to soldiers fighting against ISIS.

One message said: “Soldiers of France, stay away from the Islamic State! You have the chance to save your families, take advantage of it… The CyberCaliphate continues its cyberjihad against the enemies of Islamic State”, reports TheLocal.fr. Another message explained the French war against Islam was “why the French received the gifts of Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher in January”.

Taking a major television station off-air for a number of hours and degrading its ability to perform key functionality is a significant step-change in capability for the nebulous “CyberCaliphate” which claims to hack on behalf of the Islamic State. More recent ‘attacks’, largely against websites and social media accounts of media groups and government departments have been termed more “cyber vandalism” than true hacking, representing a level of competence not beyond the level of most computer science graduates.

The French minister for culture condemned the outage as a “true terrorist attack” this morning.