by Pamela Williams
Unfortunately the people in Dallas, Texas know what the end of the world feels like. They were asleep, or many of them were, when sirens went off alerting everyone to prepare themselves for….well, right now I would think of a bombing by North Korea or Russia. I cannot get my mind off of that. I know the day will come when we will look up to our skies every time we hear a low-flying plane. Or I will…maybe it is just me.
But On Friday night, 18 minutes before midnight, every single one of Dallas’s 156 emergency weather sirens went off. The sirens, whose purpose is to be heard by anyone caught outdoors in a tornado or dangerous storm, screamed from the southern reaches of Oak Cliff to newspaper columnist Robert Wilonsky’s house in the north. They blared for an hour and a half, to the annoyance, terror or amusement of 1.3 million residents.
— ManicPixieDreamGay (@deadlyblonde) April 8, 2017
I was up and on a forum, and a thread popped up saying, “All Sirens In Dallas Are Going Off!” Then another popped up! Everyone was freaking, especially with all the threats of war. But these sirens are tornado warning sirens; nevertheless, everyone was thinking “bombs.” Of course, I was.
— Robert Wilonsky (@RobertWilonsky) April 8, 2017
The sirens are something of a spring feature in that part of Texas, which occasionally sees twisters roam past office towers, and where three tornadoes touched down just days earlier, as the Dallas Morning News reported.
But not so much in clear weather, at midnight. So all of Dallas could only guess what was happening until city workers tried to figure out the same. I am sure people were freaking just like those on the forum were.
I had not heard what actually caused the sirens to go off until I just read it online. They were hacked! I am sure the hackers got a huge kick out of thinking everyone was in a state of panic.
And sure enough they were. Not everyone cracked jokes. “We had people asking if we were being attacked because of what’s going on overseas,” a city spokeswoman said the next day. And thousands of people flooded the Dallas 911 system (which has had its own technical problems), she said, leaving people with real emergencies waiting on the line for long minutes.
Now that is not funny. If you have ever had an emergency, finding yourself dialing 911, you know it is not funny. I would say the hacker should be in a lot of trouble for that. After nearly an hour of chaos, the city was in a panic to fix the problem. They eventually called it a “malfunction.”
By 1:20 a.m., officials had decided the only way to stop the noise was “to unplug the radio systems and the repeater, and pretty much turn the siren system completely off,” as emergency management director Rocky Vaz explained to reporters the next day.
At that same news conference, which was ironically drowned out at one point by ambulance sirens, city spokeswoman Sana Syed announced that the 95 minutes of howling had not been a glitch after all.
Ah, oh, someone sitting in their parent’s basement thinking they were very smart and oh, so cool, will be sitting in a jail cell soon. The official went on to say, “we do believe this was a hack and came from the Dallas area.”
Officials have ruled out a remote hack, telling reporters someone gained physical access to a hub connecting all the sirens, which may not be turned on again until Monday as the city tries to figure out who, how and why. So I guess the hacker was not sitting in his parent’s basement afterall. He was out and about wrecking havoc.
“Talking to all the experts in the siren industry in the field, this is a very, very rare event,” Vaz said. He’d said he’d heard of a city having a few individual sirens tampered with the early 1990s — but nothing like a citywide hack. Wow, I guess others will follow, unless they get the kid, and he pays for it heavily.
The city has asked the Federal Communications Commission to track down the culprit and is looking for alternative alert systems in case the sirens aren’t back up before expected storms roll in early next week.
And whatever was said on Twitter that night, officials aren’t laughing.
“You can put me down as terrified,” a city council member told the Morning News.
This is a hack.
"CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE "
Dallas emergency sirens still
— ❌Turnbolt77❌ (@turnbolt11) April 8, 2017
Mayor Mike Rawlings called the hack “an attack on our emergency notification system.” He urged upgrades to Dallas’s chronically and sometimes dangerously wonky electronic infrastructure and promised the city would “identify and prosecute those responsible.”
Still, though, the jokes. And the below is just too cute!
You have to admit that is a pretty cool picture of Putin.
Prank back for the airbase? pic.twitter.com/3pCw5sNnRT
— Trump Image Library (@TrumpLibrary) April 8, 2017
I am not alone, as others thought about Putin, too. Who knows?
OMG! A Russian man has been arrested in Spain! Holy Cow! It has nothing to do with the Dallas hack!
Russian man arrested in Barcelona
A Russian man arrested in Barcelona on Friday at the request of US authorities is thought to have been involved in hacking linked to the US presidential election last year.
Reuters reported that Pyotr Levashov was detained under a US international arrest warrant. Writing on his Krebs on Security blog, Brian Krebs claims that Levashov is better known as the hacker “Severa”, a “pivotal figure in many Russian-language cybercrime forums”.
Krebs notes that Levashov is “listed as #7 in the world’s Top 10 Worst Spammers list maintained by anti-spam group Spamhaus”.
HERE IS MORE ON THE HACK:
The identity of who hacked the Dallas emergency siren system Friday evening remains a mystery, but city officials said they do know how it was done
When Beth Mortenson and her family heard the siren across the street from their home blaring in the middle of the night, they weren’t sure what to do.
“It sounded like an air raid. I knew there wasn’t severe weather. Checked to see if there was severe weather. When there wasn’t I thought, we need to get out of here,” Mortenson said.
People across the city began flooding 911 operators with thousands of calls.
“I finally had got someone on the line for 911 in Dallas, and she said, ‘well we don’t know what’s going on,’ and I said ‘okay.’ I said, ‘well what does that mean?’ And she said, ‘we don’t know,’” Mortenson said.
Wow, lets hope this does not start a trend.
It took nearly two hours to shut down the system. A city spokesperson announced someone managed to hack into the emergency system and activate it, but officials are still working with the FCC to try to figure out who did it.
“We know how they did it, so we can stop it from happening again. Will we know who did it? I don’t know,” OEM Director Rocky Vaz said.
Dallas city councilman Philip Kingston says he’s skeptical about the hacking explanation and wants more answers from OEM when the city’s Public Safety Committee meets on Monday.
“Since the staff blamed T-Mobile for the 911 shutdown, and that turned out to be false, I really want to understand system vulnerability before we decide we’ve been hacked,” Kingston said.
City leaders agree it’s critical to restore the emergency system and the public’s faith in it.
They have called the FBI in, and they hope to have the system reactivated by Sunday. Really, all joking aside, when you think about all the people who count on the 911 system, this is frankly quite frightening. If it can happen in Dallas, it can happen anywhere. We cannot afford to have those who are sick and dying not have services to rescue squads and ambulances.
Hackers are becoming more powerful all the time, and I would hope they would not begin to hack into systems like 911. I would advise them if they are thinking it is a prank, no, it is a crime dealing with life and death. This makes one realize how important our emergency services are, and the fact that hackers are becoming more powerful is no joking matter. I should not be joking about this, and I apologize.