Zombie EAS Hack Attack Hits TV Stations

Hackers broke into the Emergency Alert Systems of KRTV Great Falls, Mont. (see video below); WBKP and WNMU Marquette, Mich., airing a warning that dead bodies were "attacking the living" and warned people not to "approach or apprehend these bodies as they are extremely dangerous." Local and state authorities and the FCC are investigating to determine how the hackers got access.

At least four TV stations across the country Monday were the victims of a hoax after a hacker broke into their Emergency Alert Systems.

KRTV Great Falls, Mon., initially made headlines Tuesday after a video of the alert, claiming “dead bodies were rising from their graves,” went viral on the Web. But the CBS affiliate wasn’t alone. WBKP and WNMU Marquette, Mich., also had the same alert played on their airwaves.

Story continues after the ad

The hack likely happened because station operators didn’t change the default password on their Common Alert Protocol Emergency Alert System, says Ed Czarnecki, senior director of strategy and regulatory affairs for Monroe Electronics, the main manufacturer of EAS systems across the country.

“Quite simply, someone made an unauthorized access to the stations’ firewall and somebody logged into the system using a default username and password,” says Czarnecki. “This is a simple matter of operational security best practices. You have to change your default password on any new device.”

Now local and state authorities and the FCC are investigating to determine how that unauthorized access was granted. Calls into the Michigan State Police and FCC weren’t immediately returned, although the FCC Tuesday evening ordered stations to take immediate action to secure their EAS systems.

A spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency acknowledged that there may have been "a breach of security" of the product used by some broadcasers.

Brand Connections

However, he added, "FEMA's integrated public alert and warning system was not breached or compromised and this had no impact on FEMA’s ability to activate the Emergency Alert System to notify the American public.FEMA will continue to support the FCC and other federal agencies looking into the matter."

After reviewing his station’s EAS security log Monday night, Kenn Baynard, WBKP operations manager in Marquette, said it was clear that someone made multiple attempts to break into the system. “They went in from the back door of this system and tried numerous passwords and have been doing so for days leading up to the hack,” Baynard says.

Before any real alert goes out, such as one from the National Weather Service, station executives are notified via email about it. That didn’t happen at the ABC affiliate on Monday afternoon, Baynard says. “It just went out by itself. There was no log about it, nothing. It just went out.”

Baynard is now blaming Monroe Electronics, claiming the software has a security flaw. “I spoke with an engineer in Montana using the same system, and it was hit the same exact way.”

Czarnecki stands by his argument, saying the company clearly states in its manual to change all default passwords, including the administrator password. He’s now telling all station operators to double-check their passwords and even choose a new password to avoid anything similar from happening.

“We’re not treating this lightly,” he says, adding the company is examining multiple options to fix any possible security flaws.

Ernest Sanchez, counsel for KENW Portales, N.M., said, in general, any business that has a responsibility to take reasonable action to protect against any kind of foreseeable cyber attack. “This should be a wakeup call to stations around the country to be very conscious about their EAS security,” he says.

As for who did the hacking is still being investigated.

Eric Smith, WNMU general manager, said Northern Michigan University’s forensics information technology staff traced the hack to an overseas IP address Tuesday morning.

“We have a good forensics IT staff that are very good at tracking where problems develop,” says Smith. “As protocol, we’ve turned the investigation over to the university’s public safety and police department.”

Karole White, president-CEO of the Michigan Broadcaster’s Association, said the group has been contacting other Michigan stations to ensure a similar attach has happened. She says this is the first time she’s ever heard of experienced this type of attack.

“Before a year or two ago, the EAS systems were hooked up through phone lines, now they’re hooked up to the Internet,” she says. “On the bright side, this minor attack, while it may have confused or frightened people, uncovered some weaknesses that we can look at, fix and adjust to, to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”


Comments (4) -

TVMN Nickname posted over 4 years ago
The last line says it all: We have become a gullible breed.
Thomas Scanlan posted over 4 years ago
I'm proud to know both Kenn and Eric, and whoever the hackers are, they should know they're messing with some of the best and most technically proficient GM's in the business. Way to go, guys!!
Kenn Baynard Nickname posted over 4 years ago
Thanks Tom!
John Russo posted over 4 years ago
> Baynard is now blaming Monroe Electronics, > claiming the software has a security flaw. Yeah, it's what's known in tech support nomenclature as an ID-10-T error. It's not the lock company's fault if he leaves his keys under the welcome mat, I'm exhausted to say. “I spent my money on the Clapgo D. 29; it's the most impenetrable lock on the market today. It has only one design flaw: the door... [closing door] must be closed!” – (Seinfeld: Season 1; Episode 3: “The Robbery”)
Marketshare Blog Playout Blog




Overnights, adults 18-49 for October 24, 2016
  • 1.
  • 2.
  • 3.
  • 4.
  • 5.
  • 6.
Source: Nielsen


  • Neil Genzlinger

    The intriguing CW series Frequency starts out looking as if it were going to be a bittersweet, nostalgia-tinged time-travel drama in the Stephen King-Twilight Zone lineage, and that probably would have made for a comfortably satisfying show, the kind you can half-watch while doing something else. In the last third of the premiere, though, things take a joltingly different, more complicated path. Sorry, couch potatoes, but it looks as if you might have to keep both eyes on the screen for this one.

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

This advertisement will close automatically in  second(s). You will see this ad no more than once a day. Skip ad