Israeli broadcaster points to Hamas as perpetrator of Eurovision broadcast hack

Kan CEO says Gaza-based terror group apparently responsible for interrupting song contest’s website during semifinals with fake missile warning

The head of the Kan public broadcaster on Wednesday said the Gaza-based Hamas terror group appeared to have been responsible for the hacking of its livestream of the Eurovision Song Contest the night before.

For several minutes on Tuesday night, the Kan website was interrupted with a video of a forged warning from the Israel Defense Forces telling viewers within 1.2 kilometers of the Eurovision song contest venue in north Tel Aviv to seek shelter from an imminent rocket attack.

The approximately two-minute video ended with a warning that “Israel is not safe, you will see.” The hacking effort did not affect the television broadcast of the international song contest, which is run by the European Broadcast Union.

On Wednesday, Kan CEO Eldad Koblenz told Army Radio that Hamas appeared to be behind the cyberattack. This was also confirmed by the National Cyber Directorate, which provides assistance and guidance on cyber defense issues in the public sphere.

“That is the assessment at this time,” a National Cyber Directorate spokesperson told The Times of Israel.

A Eurovision video on the website of Israel’s Kan public broadcaster on May 15, 2019, shows an explosion with a warning that ‘Israel is not safe, you will see’ (screen capture)

Koblenz dismissed the effort as “trivial” and said that within a few minutes it had been thwarted.

“I think this was Israel’s fastest victory over Hamas in history,” he quipped.

Kan said the effect of the hacking effort was limited.

“We believe the messages were not seen by many people,” it said in a statement.

Israeli officials refused to comment publicly about how the Kan website was hacked, as the information could reveal methods that other malicious actors could later exploit. However, it did not appear to be connected to a deeper vulnerability in the broadcaster’s or the country’s cyber defenses.

Pro-Palestinian activists who advocate a boycott of the Jewish state have mounted a concerted campaign against the song contest, which has drawn international attention and tens of thousands of tourists to Israel.

Activists calling to boycott Eurovision, in Tel Aviv on May 14, 2019. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

Pro-Palestinian activists staged a march near the venue ahead of the show Tuesday, calling for an end to Israel’s control of the West Bank and restrictions on Gaza.

But most artists at the event have steered clear of politics.

Iceland’s representative, Hatari, had sparked controversy in Israel by initially vowing to use the Eurovision spotlight to expose the “face of the occupation.” But at a press conference after the semifinal, a band member offered a purely positive message.

“We need to unite and remember to love,” he said, in the wake of “hate that’s on the rise in Europe.”

Iceland’s Hatari performs the song Hatrið mun sigra during the first semifinal of the 64th edition of the Eurovision Song Contest 2019 at Expo Tel Aviv on May 14, 2019. (Jack GUEZ / AFP)

Madonna, who has been pressured by BDS activists to cancel her likely performance at the Saturday finale, said Tuesday that she will “never stop playing music to suit someone’s political agenda.”

She arrived in Israel early Wednesday.

Israeli officials have also feared an outbreak of violence from Gaza or an attack on the show could scare away performers and attendees and cast a shadow over the contest, which is seen as a major opportunity for the country to showcase a friendlier side and boost tourism.

On May 4, two days of intense rocket fire from Gaza on Israel’s south began just as performers were beginning their first rehearsals. Over 650 rockets were shot from Gaza and 300 IDF reprisal raids were carried out in two days before the sides agreed to a ceasefire.

An army official told reporters that the military had been told to wrap up its operations before Eurovision, though the political leadership has insisted the timing of the show did not play a role in strategic decisions.

The next semifinal will be held on Thursday night before the grand finale on Saturday.

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