Emails and phone lines are no longer working and employees have been instructed not to turn on their workstations.
“DO NOT TURN ON OR USE YOUR PC until further notice” (sic). It is the instruction without call that was communicated to the employees of the group M6, Monday morning on their arrival. In this message that Le Monde was able to consult, the company’s financial director, Jérôme Lefébure, explains that the group has been suffering a computer attack since the morning of Saturday October 12th. The offensive, whose exact nature is not specified, affects “all the systems and office applications” of the group.
The attack disrupts the work of teams, especially journalists. Several tools, including cards and archival images, are no longer available for television news. Journalists no longer have access to their documents and, with Wi-Fi turned off, connect to the Internet using their phone’s connection, which limits the amount of data that has been recorded for the occasion. According to our information, confirming those of L’Express, e-mails and telephone lines no longer work. Meetings were organized early Monday in the main departments to reassure and inform the teams, but also to set up alternative means of communication.
Teams still at work
The damage visible to viewers, however, remained very limited. “Nobody heard anything on the air,” says a high-ranking internal source. A team of about fifteen experts was still working Monday late afternoon in a dedicated room to put back the company’s computer system.
The instruction given to employees not to turn on their computer suggests that the computer virus is a ransomware, a computer program that makes data inaccessible and claims ransom. The TF1 group, in an internal e-mail from which Le Monde obtained the copy, ordered its employees to exercise “the greatest vigilance” in their possible communications with employees of the M6 group, claiming to have “prohibited any communication by mail “ with the competing company.
Beyond the logistical considerations, employees are still in limbo. “We do not know who, why or how,” says one of them.
The official communication is summarized Monday late afternoon, in a Tweet posted Sunday night on behalf of the group. The company evokes a “malicious computer attack” that has not hindered “the smooth broadcast of programs across all TV and radio antennas” through “the rapid and effective intervention of our experts in cybersecurity”.
The attack on the audiovisual group seems to be smaller than the one that hit the TV5 Monde channel in 2015. In the case of the latter, it was a black screen that had, for long minutes, taken the place of its usual emissions. The hackers, experienced, determined and perfectly prepared had specifically targeted the material responsible for broadcasting video streams. In the case of M6, the vast majority of damage is confined to the office system.
According to L’Express , the National Agency for Security Information Systems (ANSSI) – the body responsible for computer protection of the State that had intervened with TV5 Monde – would be on site. Is this the sign of a serious and sophisticated attack? Solicited by Le Monde Monday afternoon, the ANSSI refused to answer our questions.