Texas – Computer Hack Sets Off 156 Emergency Sirens Across Dallas

Texas – A computer hack set off all the emergency sirens in Dallas for about 90 minutes overnight in one of the largest known breaches of a siren warning system, officials in the Texas city said on Saturday.

Dallas’ 156 sirens, normally used to warn of tornadoes and other dangerous weather, were triggered at 11:42 p.m. CDT on Friday.

The wailing did not end until 1:17 a.m. CDT on Saturday when engineers manually shut down the sirens’ radio system and repeaters, city Emergency Management Director Rocky Vaz said.

“At this point, we can tell you with a good deal of confidence that this was somebody outside of our system that got in there and activated our sirens,” he told reporters.

The breach in the city of 1.6 million people was believed to have originated in the area, city spokeswoman Sana Syed said in an emailed statement.

Vaz cited industry experts as saying the hack was among the largest ever to affect emergency sirens, with most breaches triggering one or two. “This is a very, very rare event,” he said.

Engineers are working to restart the system and should have it restored by late on Sunday, he said. Until the sirens are running, Dallas will rely on local media, emergency 911 phone calls, and a federal radio alert system, Vaz said.

The hack is being investigated by system engineers and the Federal Communications Commission has been contacted, but police have not been involved, he said.

The sirens went through 15 cycles of a 90-second activation before they were shut down, he said.

The wailing sirens triggered a firestorm of speculation and reaction on Twitter, with Garrett S. Bacak at @theinsidiousone tweeting, “Go home dallas, you’re drunk.”

Glynn Wilcox wrote on @glynnwilcox, “At this point I’m never trusting a #siren again.”

1 reply
  1. Joe Levin
    Joe Levin says:

    Outdoor warning sirens sounded for 90 minutes in the city of Dallas, Texas and its environs at 11:44 p.m. on Friday night. Immediately, citizens began calling the 911 emergency hotline, causing a system backup.

    According to police, Sirens also went off in Garland, Texas, and officials worked to correct the system “malfunction.”

    The sirens were turned off at approximately 1:20 a.m on Saturday morning, the Dallas Morning News reported.

    On Saturday afternoon, Dallas Public Information Director Sana Syed, the sirens were caused by hackers, and there was no actual emergency. She also said 4,400 citizens called 911 between 1:30 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.

    “We understand that people were concerned,” Syed said. “We had people asking if we were being attacked because of what’s going on overseas.”

    Dallas’ Office of Emergency Management Director Rocky Vaz said engineers said they think an unidentified hacker in the Dallas area was responsible. However, police have not yet found the suspect, who set the system to repeat each siren sixty times.

    Vaz also said he can say “with a good deal of confidence that this was someone outside our system” is at fault, but that it “is going to be a very long process if we do find out who actually did it,” Vaz said.

    Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said he considers the hack an attack on the city’s emergency notification system. He warned that the city will “find and prosecute whomever is responsible.”

    “This is yet another serious example of the need for us to upgrade and better safeguard our city’s technology infrastructure,” Rawlings posted on Facebook. “It’s a costly proposition, which is why every dollar of taxpayer money must be spent with critical needs such as this in mind. Making the necessary improvements is imperative for the safety of our citizens.”

    Dallas has 156 outdoor warning sirens, used mostly to warn citizens of tornadoes. It is not clear how many actually malfunctioned.

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