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French TV network goes dark after hackers hit online accounts

The logo of France's TV5Monde.
The logo of France’s TV5Monde.

A French television network was briefly forced off the air after hackers commandeered several online accounts associated with the broadcaster.

Paris-based TV5Monde says its suffered a catastrophic cyber attack that “severely damaged” its computer network late Wednesday evening. Part of the attack focused on social media accounts used by the French international broadcaster, where hackers posted documents claiming to show identity cards and other information of French soldiers and their relatives.

The hackers, who claimed to be associated with the Islamic State, said the individuals who appeared in the documents were related to French soldiers who had participated in campaigns against the militia.

“Soldiers of France, stay away from the Islamic State!” an ominous message posted on TV5Monde’s Facebook page said. “You have the change to save your families, take advantage of it.”

That message and others contained the signature of the “CyberCaliphate,” which has claimed responsibility for attacks against the websites and social media profiles of other media organizations over the past few months. It is unclear if the individual or group working under the CyberCaliphate moniker in Wednesday’s attack against TV5Monde is the same person whom The Desk identified in February as a lone Algerian hacker who has no apparent ties to the Islamic State militia.

The CyberCaliphate’s previous compromises have largely been dismissed as a nuisance. But Wednesday’s attack against TV5Monde was considered to be significantly disruptive after the network decided to stop broadcasting for three hours.

It was not immediately clear if TV5Monde’s decision to temporarily suspend transmission its channels was a precautionary measure or if computer systems used for broadcasting had been affected by the compromise.

TV5Monde broadcasts French-language news and entertainment programming to more than 200 countries around the world. France’s public broadcaster serves as the majority owner and operator of the channel; the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Switzerland’s RTS and Belgium’s RTBF each have a minority stake in regional variants of the channel.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).