Hacking and Signal Interference of U.S. International Broadcasting

As popular protests unfold across the Middle East, U.S. international broadcasting faces increased satellite signal interference and a web Domain Name System (DNS) attack. 

“Our broadcasters are at the forefront of reporting the most tumultuous events we have seen unfold since 1989,” said Walter Isaacson, Chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) which oversees all U.S. international broadcasting including the Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe (RFE). “It is a testament to their vital role that they are subject to the work of hackers and signal interference.”

On Monday, February 21, an unknown party hacked the Voice of America’s primary domain name (VOANews.com), along with numerous related domains registered with Network Solutions. Web users were directed to a website claiming to be run by a group called the “Iranian Cyber Army.” 

“There’s a saying that a hit dog hollers – that can be applied to whoever tried to cut off access to VOA News by attacking the domain provider on Monday. The fact that the sites were redirected to the Iranian Cyber Army certainly raises an eyebrow or two,” said Dana Perino member of the BBG. “Technology is chipping away at the stranglehold on free and fair information inside Iran. VOA News is strongly committed to providing the news at it happens in a variety of ways so that every Iranian that can get access to the free media can benefit from our journalists’ reporting.”

This was a Domain Name System (DNS) attack redirecting the VOANews.com website. This was not a breach of internal systems or servers. No data was lost or compromised as a result of this event. An investigation is underway to determine who is responsible.

Since February 13, there has been intermittent but frequent interference of VOA’s Persian News Network (PNN) and RFE’s Radio Farda satellite signals with programming in Persian for audiences in Iran.

As of the morning of February 21, there has been a continuous service interruption on one satellite channel carrying VOA’s PNN. PNN is carried on three other satellite paths as well as online including a popular TV satire, “Parazit”. Millions of the show’s fans use proxy servers to access the program through social media sites like Facebook and YouTube. In the last month, Facebook recorded more than 20 million impressions on Parazit’s page.

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