Hackers intercepted television programmes within the United Arab Emirates (UAE) over the weekend, broadcasting footage of Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
According to a report by Emirati news outlet, the Khaleej Times, subscribers to the particular streaming network within the UAE fell victim to the hacking incident on live Western channels yesterday, in which their screens displayed a message stating that “We have no choice but to hack to deliver this message to you”.
The screens then displayed an AI (artificial intelligence) news anchor presenting a bulletin on the plight of Palestinian children and women in Israeli jails, along with footage showing them in distress.
Many #UAE residents experienced an unexpected interruption to their television programmes on Sunday night as a #CyberAttack targeted set-top boxes, replacing regular content with information about #Israeli atrocities in #Palestine.
Subscribers to the affected service reported a… pic.twitter.com/wAFSRO5E0Z
— Khaleej Times (@khaleejtimes) December 11, 2023
One resident in Dubai, identified by the initials AA who uses the popular HK1RBOXX streaming device, was quoted as saying “I was watching BBC News around 10.30 pm when the programme was abruptly disrupted, and instead, harrowing visuals from Palestine appeared on my screen. I watched transfixed as my screen froze, and a message from the hacker popped up in all caps against a green background. This was immediately followed by a news bulletin presented by an AI anchor. It was surreal and scary.”
A female European resident identified as JF also recounted her experience while watching a quiz show, stating that “I found myself watching a bespectacled AI anchor discussing the atrocities, accompanied by a ticker displaying the number of Palestinians killed and wounded so far. The videos were quite graphic, and I had children around. I didn’t want them exposed to it, but we were caught unprepared. Every channel we switched to displayed the same content.”
It remains unknown who was behind the hacking incident and from where they operated from. The streaming service acknowledged the issue and released an apology, assuring its subscribers that it was actively investigating the matter.
The breach was reportedly a result of the networks’ streaming servers having been compromised, according to the report which quoted Obaidullah Kazmi, founder and CTO of the Dubai-based cyber security company, Credo. “Due to the inherently insecure nature of such unauthorised services which often lack robust security measures, there is a heightened risk to both the service and its user”.