The Islamic State-supporting hackers that disrupted French TV network TV5 Monde could launch similar attacks against U.S. stations, experts warned Thursday.
The attack, which started Wednesday night, briefly cut transmission of 11 channels belonging to TV5 Monde and took over its websites and social media accounts. A message on the TV5 Monde website read in part "I am IS" with a banner by a group that called itself Cybercaliphate. It was replaced later Thursday by a simple message saying that the website was undergoing maintenance, before being fully restored.
Joe Gallop, head of the hacktivism intelligence practice at cybersecurity firm iSIGHT Partners warned that U.S. stations could also be targeted. Gallop told FoxNews.com that the group has already shown its desire to target U.S. media outlets by hijacking the Twitter feeds of Newsweek and Maryland TV station WBOC, which had also had its website hacked.
“They are a uniquely capable group among ISIS supporters in terms of their overall operational sophistication,” he said.
While the group has not displayed a high level of technical skill, it still poses a potent threat to U.S. media, including broadcasters, according to Gallop. “There are a number of other things that can contribute [to the threat], including motivation, creativity in social engineering and propaganda, and a lack of fear of law enforcement,” he said.
iSIGHT Partners, which monitors global cybersecurity threats, is still analyzing the attack on TV5Monde, he said.
Johannes Ullrich, dean of research for the SANS Technology Institute, also expects similar attacks on U.S. TV stations, with hackers eager to exploit the high-profile nature of news organizations. “That gives them the best multiplier, they want to get their message out and hurt the trust that in news networks that people have.”
Ullrich also believes that the group is casting a wide hacking net. “These are not really targeted attacks – they are trying to get into any news organization,” he said.
This is not the first time that hackers have targeted a TV network. In 2005, for example, the Zotob worm disrupted programming at CNN’s New York bureau.
“Cyber attacks against TV stations aren't a new thing,” explained U.K. security expert Graham Cluley, in a blog post Thursday. “What's different about the CNN attack of ten years ago and the attack that has just taken place against TV5 Monde is that CNN wasn't targeted. It was just unlucky enough to have vulnerable computers and be hit by a worm that was trying to infect as many computers around the world as possible.”
The attack on TVMonde5 is the latest in a string of high-profile digital assaults by hackers claiming allegiance to ISIS.
In January a group also describing itself as “Cyber Caliphate” seized the U.S. Central Command’s Twitter and YouTube accounts, prompting the military to tighten its social media password security. The following month a group calling itself “Gasper CyberCaliphate Sadz” hacked the Military Spouses of Strength Twitter account.
Military Spouses of Strength was set up in 2013 with the goal of improving mental health awareness in the U.S. military community.
The attack on TV5Monde appears to be an unprecedented step in the extremist group's information warfare tactics.
Experts are looking for clues about the shadowy hacking group. “We still haven’t observed any indication that they are anything other than a supporter [of ISIS],” said iSIGHT Partners’ Gallop. “The real threat is that ISIS recognizes their potential and provides them with resources of some kind.”
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers
The Associated Press contributed to this report.