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The Fake EAS Zombie Warning

Why it's a Problem and What Can Be Done?

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Emergency Alert System Logo

Emergency Alert System Logo

Government Agency Unrestricted Useage
You might have heard this story in the news recently but simply laughed it off as another amusing headline. I'm talking about the prankster or hacker(s) who plied his wares on TV station KRTV in Great Falls, Montana and compromised the Emergency Alert System. During an airing of The Steve Wilkos Show, the EAS kicked off an aired hits announcement:

"Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living. Follow the messages on screen that will be updated as information becomes available. Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous."

Several other television stations were subjected to the hacker including several Michigan, California, Tennessee, and New Mexico. TV outlets.

Hopefully, it was obvious to most viewers immediately that it was not real. And sure, we all like a good zombie movie or TV show. Who hasn't been amused by hackers who work their way into the electronics of roadway traffic signs and make them read "Caution Zombies Ahead!"

But, in this case somebody has to be the adult in the room because the consequences of hacking into the Emergency Alert System can be broad and widespread. All AM, FM, TV, and Satellite Radio stations and services are required to be part of it. In a national emergency, FEMA could activate the national system by a White House request and in minutes the President could be speaking to the whole country across radio and television. Once the EAS system is triggered on a national level, designated Primary stations issue automation tones which grab hold of EAS receivers at smaller stations. In effect, the government can seize 98% of all communications in the country almost immediately. Local programming is pre-empted automatically and the President's message is heard everywhere. That's a lot of power - an we must protect it.

Hackers with zombie warnings are entertaining until one thinks about the deeper consequences of the prank and the chilling implications in a world where bad actors can disrupt our systems and distribute misinformation. It's not a problem if it's really the President. It is a problem if it's a terrorist trying to create panic or a misguided hacker trying to exact some particular outcome.

I'm not the only one raising a red flag on this.

"It isn't what they said. It is the fact that they got into the system. They could have caused some real damage," agrees Karole White, President of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters as quoted by informationweek.com.

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