Over 1,000 French sites hacked since Charlie Hebdo attacks

PARIS (AFP) - More than 1,000 French websites have been targeted by self-described Islamist hackers in the week since the attack by radicals on the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo left 12 people dead, Internet security experts said on Wednesday.

Most of the hacks targeted relatively small sites operated by local government, universities, churches and businesses whose home pages were defaced with messages that included "There is only one God, Allah," "Death to France," and "Death to Charlie".

Experts told AFP that "cyber-jihadist" hackers from North Africa and Mauritania have claimed responsibility for the hijacking of over 1,000 sites since the Jan 7 Charlie Hebdo attack, and have threatened a surge of activity on Jan 15.

"For now it has been more cyber-vandalism than sophisticated, high-level attacks. We're not yet dealing with very structured groups," Francois Paget, an expert with software security company McAfee said.

Because of that, according to other industry insiders, it was difficult to know what form the threatened hacking on Jan 15 might take.

"On Thursday, we may see, for example, attacks on higher-profile sites, organised group action, or a (complete) change of technique," said Gerome Billois, senior manager at computer consultancy Solucom.