Huge numbers of French websites have been targeted by Islamists in response to the outpouring of support for the victims of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Some of the sites affected by the attacks are among France’s most popular, like L’Express and Le Parisien. The FT reports:
Arnaud Coustilliere, head of cyber-defence for the French military, said that the attacks on 19,000 websites in the past four days were “unprecedented”, with many being carried out by well-known Islamist organisations.
“This is the response to last Sunday’s march,” he said, referring to the protest march attended by 3.7m people and 40 world leaders in memory of the victims of the Islamist attacks.The cyber attackers, who did not appear to use sophisticated methods, ranged from “shocked believers to hardened terrorists”, Mr Coustilliere told reporters on Thursday. He called the nature of the attacks “low level.”Many of the French websites were either knocked offline by so-called denial of service attacks or had their homepages replaced by Islamic flags or Islamist messages, he said.
While denial of service attacks are basically child’s play—most any committed basement-dweller with the spare time and inclination can amass the knowledge to pull one off—it does not mean that they are without consequence. They are an early example of a coming shift in the way battle lines will likely be drawn in people’s minds.In the modern world, the internet means that the enemy has an avenue straight into our homes, our newsrooms, and our government offices. That means that even attacks that amount to nothing more than digital vandalism can over time snowball into being perceived as very real threats to normalcy by the broader public. Correct or not on the merits, especially after a traumatic event like what transpired in Paris last week, these perceptions will have political consequences. In America at least, the Jacksonian sensibility tends to wake up looking for a fight when what is perceived as normal, everyday life is being threatened from abroad.