The words “Cybercaliphate” and “je suis IS” flashed up on the BBC News channel yesterday evening in what many people feared was a cyber attack by Isis.
Supporters of the so-called Islamic State had hacked French television network TV5 Monde hours earlier, simultaneously blacking out 11 of its channels and taking over its website and social media accounts.
The BBC News channel was broadcasting a segment on the Trident nuclear missile defence system shortly after 8pm on Thursday when it suddenly cut out.
It was replaced by a shot of a screen displaying the words “Cybercaliphate” and “je suis IS” in red and black writing before anchor Clive Myrie apologised and the live programme resumed.
A spokesperson for the BBC said the interruption was not the result of a hack but a mistake.
“This was an operational error in which a graphic being used in BBC reports about the French cyber-attack was broadcast briefly by mistake during another item,” she added.
The image that appeared was in fact a screen grab from the hacked French television network’s Facebook page, which was taken over by Isis supporters hours earlier.
Hackers claiming allegiance to Isis blacked out 11 channels run by TV5 Monde in a cyber attack starting late on Wednesday night that appears to be the extremist group’s most ambitious media assault so far.
Operations were fully re-established by Thursday evening and prosecutors have opened an investigation.
The hackers also claimed to have leaked files including CVs, scanned passports and government letters, according to an analysis by the SITE Intelligence Group.
France's interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said inquiries were in the early stages but “numerous elements converge to suggest the cause of this attack is, indeed, a terrorist act”.
The message on the TV5 Monde website read in part “I am IS (Islamic State)” with a banner by a group that called itself Cybercaliphate.
One message posted on the broadcaster's Facebook page read: “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.”
Hackers operating under that name have carried out a string of attacks against media outlets since late last year, including on Newsweek and the US military’s Central Command.
It is unclear whether they are formal members of the group, supporters or hackers with no link to Isis.
The editor of the French investigative website Breaking3zero, which tracked similar hacks in January, said the latest attack can be directly linked to two Isis-linked militants - one in Algeria who built the malicious software and another in Iraq who helped speed up the attack.
France has been repeatedly singled out, alongside Britain and the US, in Isis propaganda videos calling for the migration of jihadists to fight in Iraq and Syria, and terror attacks on militants’ home soil.
It is a member of the US-led coalition carrying out air strikes against Isis in Iraq and Syria and hundreds of French nationals are believed to have joined the extremist group there in its bloody battle to establish a Muslim "caliphate".
Additional reporting by AP
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