Security specialists IOActive said one TV network’s output “was interrupted by news of a zombie apocalypse”.
On February 11, 2013, hackers broke into the EAS networks in Great Falls, Montana and Marquette, Michigan to broadcast an emergency alert that zombies have risen from their graves in several counties in Montana and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Great Falls Tribune reported the hoax alert generated at least four calls to police to see if it was true.
Messages in the EAS are composed of four parts: a digitally encoded SAME header, an attention signal, an audio announcement, and a digitally encoded end-of-message marker.
EAS is used on AM, FM and Land Mobile Radio Service, as well as VHF, UHF, FiOS (wireline video providers), and Cable television including low-power stations. The FCC requires all broadcast stations and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPD) to install and maintain FCC-certified EAS decoders and encoders at their control points or headends.
Hackers used default passwords to gain entry to the system. Some stations do not change their logins or passwords, opting to use factory presets instead. IOActive has released a guidance sheet for concerned broadcasters looking to protect their system.
The Commercial Mobile Alert System enables commercial mobile providers to transmit emergency alerts to their subscribers. Users do not have to sign up for the service or pay for the text message. And people who prefer not to get the warnings can opt out of the system.
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