Islam Channel chief accuses Russia of cyber attack

Mohamed Ali al Harrath

The owner of Islam Channel has accused Russian military intelligence agents of launching a cyber-attack against the broadcaster.

Mohamed Ali Harrath told Asharq Al-Awsat that the incident happened in 2015 and  Kremlin-backed hackers had complete control over the broadcaster’s computer networks.

According to the Financial Times newspaper, Russian intelligence had been targeting the channel’s database for a while, going unnoticed until British security services informed channel management of what’s going on in 2015.

“Our media success is what drives enmity against us,” Harrath told Asharq Al-Awsat. “Government statistics show that 60 percent of British Muslims follow the channel’s programs… Although we have changed the cyberinfrastructure of the station, which costs a lot of money, we may still be hacked.”

Islam Channel says it reaches up to 100 countries worldwide, airing on eight different satellites across five continents. There are 30 million Muslims in Russia watching around-the-clock programs aired by the channel, Harrath said.

“Since the station launched, we provided coverage for many Islamic activities in Russia, including the Holy Quran Award in Moscow in 2015, and never attacked Russian interests or policies around the world,” he added.

“Russian intelligence hackers were in control of everything. They could see everything we were doing, and we could not send and receive e-mails within weeks, leaving us feeling helpless.”

But the Russian Embassy in London said no evidence had been provided to back up the claims.

They said the information in the Financial Times article “does not withstand the slightest criticism, it seems it was written in a hurry, and the logical pattern was disrupted. The article’s main goal is clear — to bring another accusation against Russia.”

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