The revelation that 19,000 French websites have been hacked by terrorists in an unprecedented attack comes as the nation gets ready to bury some of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo shooting last week.
France’s chief of cyberdefense told CNN Money the French Defense Ministry and ANSSI (French version of NSA) on Thursday that the scope of the attack is unlike anything anyone has seen before. The websites affected belong to religious entities, businesses, and even the army, which have seen their sites taken over by pro-Islamic messages and photos.
Speaking of the French website hacking, Rear Admiral Arnaud Coustillière said the cyber terrorists essentially played graffiti artists, replacing website homepages with their propaganda. Additionally, the French Defense Ministry’s website also suffered an attack in which normal internet traffic was disturbed in a denial of service attack — the same tactic used by the group Anonymous — causing it to be temporarily inaccessible. The attacks were small and quickly addressed.
Despite concerns from business owners, the admiral suggested the hacking of private sector and government French websites is more annoying than harmful. No security breach of the network was reported so far.
“These attacks have no effect on the conduct of our operations,” he said. “This is the first time that a country has been faced with such a large wave of cyber-contestation.”
Coustilliere called the attacks a response to the massive demonstrations against terrorism that drew more than three million people into streets across France on Sunday. He pointed to “more or less structured groups” that used tactics like posting symbols of jihadist groups on companies’ websites.
This news comes on the heels of a cyber attack of the Twitter and YouTube accounts for the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) this week. During a time, the pages were hijacked by ISIS sympathizers, who posted propaganda aimed at terrorizing military members and their families as well as disrupting the flow of communications for the organization.
Ironically, the day of the attack on the CENTCOM social sites, President Obama was at the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center in Washington, D.C. saying that cyberthreats pose “an enormous challenge” in which the U.S. needs to be “upping our game.”
“As a nation, we are making progress. We are more prepared to deal with cyberattacks, but attackers are getting more sophisticated,” Obama said. “All of us — government and industry — need to be doing better.”
The attack on the French websites is not isolated. They also come in the face of unspeakable sorrow and heartache for the European nation.