The France TV5Monde was almost destroyed by the Russian APT28 group

Pierluigi Paganini October 11, 2016

The TV5Monde director-general has told the BBC that his TV was almost destroyed by a targeted cyber attack conducted by the Russian APT28 group.

On April 2015, the TV5Monde was hit by a severe cyber attack that compromised broadcasting of transmissions across its medium. The attackers also hijacked the Channel TV5Monde website and social media accounts of the French broadcaster.

TV5Monde is controlled by the French Government, hackers of the Cyber Caliphate took the responsibility for shutting down broadcasting across its 12 channels for several hours causing the interruption of the transmission.

Now new revelations on the facts are disclosed by Yves Bigot, the director-general of TV5Monde. Mr. Bigot told the BBC that the  cyber-attack came close to destroying the network of the French TV, however, further investigation suggests the involvement of different threat actors, on the facts are disclosed by Yves Bigot, the director-general of TV5Monde. Mr. Bigot told the BBC that the  cyber-attack came close to destroying the network of the French TV, however, further investigation suggests the involvement of different threat actors, Russian hackers.

“It’s the worst thing that can happen to you in television,” Mr Bigot told BBC

“We were a couple of hours from having the whole station gone for good.”

“We were saved from total destruction by the fact we had launched the channel that day and the technicians were there,” 

“One of them was able to locate the very machine where the attack was taking place and he was able to cut out this machine from the internet and it stopped the attack.”

“We owe a lot to the engineer who unplugged that particular machine. He is a hero here,” 

The hackers compromised the network of the French TV at least 10 weeks before (on 23 January 2015) launching the final attack with a custom malware software that was designed to target encoder systems used to transmit programmes.

The hackers carried out reconnaissance of TV5Monde network to figure out the way it broadcast its transmissions, then they used the malware to destroy the internet-connected hardware that controlled the TV station’s operations.

“The attack was far more sophisticated and targeted than reported at the time. The perpetrators had first penetrated the network on 23 January.” reported the BBC.

The investigators have discovered multiple entry points used by the attackers, such as supplier networks and remote controlled cameras used in studios.

The involvement of a Russian threat actor, the APT 28 group, was also suggested by the security firm FireEye.

According to security experts at FireEye, the Russian ATP28 (also known as Pawn Storm, Tsar Team, Fancy Bear and Sednit) may have used the name of ISIS as a diversionary strategy, the experts noticed a number of similarities in the TTPs used by the Russian group and the one who breached the network at TV5Monde.

“There are a number of data points here in common,” said Jen Weedon, manager of threat intelligence at FireEye. “The ‘Cyber Caliphate website,’ where they posted the data on the TV5Monde hack was hosted on an IP block which is the same IP block as other known APT28 infrastructure, and used the same server and registrar that APT28 used in the past.”

Weedon confirmed that at the time of the TV5Monde attack, other journalists were targeted by the APT28 group and the attacks were coordinated by the same hacking infrastructure used by the team.

Experts at FireEye published a detailed report on ATP28 in October 2014, speculating that the group is composed by state-sponsored hackers that are managing a long-running cyber espionage campaign on US defense contractors, European security organizations and Eastern European government entities.

Mr. Bigot confirmed that the French cyber-agency told him that hackers had used the ISIS brand to cover their tracks.

ISIS cyber Caliphate TV5Monde 2

The TV5Monde director was later told evidence had been found that the attack was conducted by the Russian APT 28 group.

Mr. Bigot explained that he has absolutely no idea the chosen of TV5Monde as the target.

“There are two things that the investigation won’t probably be able to achieve,” he added. “The first one is why us – why TV5Monde?” “And the second one is: Who gave the order and the money to that Russian group of hackers to actually do it?”

According to the BBC, that cited intelligence analysts in the UK and US, and France, the cyber attack against the French TV was a highly-targeted attack conducted by Russian hackers most likely in the attempt hackers most likely in the attempt “to test forms of cyber-weaponry as part of an increasingly aggressive posture”.

Regardless of whoever is the culprit, there is one certainty, the cyber attack cost the TV station €5m ($5.6m) and left it with an increased reoccurring bill of €3m ($3.4m) due to the necessity to implement and adopt further security countermeasures.

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 Pierluigi Paganini

(Security Affairs – APT28, Cyber Caliphate)

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