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.
TVNewsCheck,

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.”

Tags

Comments (4) -

TVMN Nickname posted over 2 years ago
The last line says it all: We have become a gullible breed.
Thomas Scanlan posted over 2 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!!
Pierow Nickname posted over 2 years ago
Thanks Tom!
John Russo posted a year 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”)

Classifieds

Marketshare Blog Playout Blog

Twitter

TVNewsCheck

Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for March 2, 2015
  • 1.
    3.0/9
  • 2.
    1.9/6
  • 3.
    1.8/5
  • 4.
    1.5/5
  • 5.
    1.2/4
  • 6.
    0.2/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Mark Perigard

    ABC’s Secrets and Lies is the second network TV series adapted from an Australian hit to focus on violence against a child in a month. NBC’s The Slap is self-explanatory and rich in character. With a title such as Secrets and Lies, ABC’s newest limited series is going for something a bit more salacious, but anyone hoping for a Desperate Housewives vibe (ABC’s last big Sunday hit) will be disappointed. This story unfolds as if it were told by someone overdosing on Ambien.

  • Rob Owen

    It's hard to imagine Fox's funny, entertaining and pretty original Last Man on Earth becoming a hit, but the same could have at one time been said about The Lego Movie and the screen version of 21 Jump Street, so you never can tell. Writers Chris Miller and Phil Lord had a hand in all three, and it's fair to say if you liked their movies, you'll probably dig this new TV comedy, too. Creatively, there's no question Last Man on Earth is a winner, a unique comedy in a sea of sitcoms viewers have seen before. But being original is also risky.

  • Tom Conroy

    CBS’s new crime dramedy Battle Creek is yet another detective series featuring two mismatched partners who are destined to achieve a grudging respect. Battle Creek might be able to survive on the strengths of its two charismatic lead actors, but the perfunctory mystery in the premiere suggests that the lack of creativity will do them in. That lack is all the more surprising because the writers of the episode are Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, and David Shore, the creator of House, both of which were innovative series.

  • David Hinckley

    When they  talk about the great folk music troubadours and carriers of the 20th century, too often they mention Woody Guthrie and A.P. Carter and the Lomaxes, then leave out Lead Belly. Huddie Ledbetter, grandson of slaves, is described in Smithsonian Channel's new documentary Legend of Lead Belly as a "human jukebox," an artist who listened to all the music around him, absorbed it and distilled it into an enormous body of his own work.

  • Brian Lowry

    With Two and a Half Men signing off, CBS will try to fill the void by shrinking the formula to two admittedly very familiar men, named Felix and Oscar. Matthew Perry completes his potentially dubious post-Friends hat trick — having starred in comedies for NBC and ABC as well — with this reboot of The Odd Couple, a beloved series that still derives some kick from Neil Simon’s blueprint, but also feels especially dated in this day and age, what with Felix as the nonsexual spouse, essentially, to Oscar’s slovenly husband. Good casting provides some hope, but this still feels oh-so-20th century.

  • Alessandra Stanley

    AMC's Better Call Saul revolves around Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), the shady lawyer of Walter White, the hero of Breaking Bad, and is set roughly six years before the two men meet. It’s common to dread a spinoff; some succeed, but plenty disappoint. There is absolutely no need to worry about this prequel to the Breaking Bad canon. Better Call Saul traces in loving, if corrosive, detail how Jimmy McGill, a debt-ridden, ambulance-chasing loser, changed his name to Saul Goodman and became a drug-lord consigliere. Better Call Saul is better than good: It’s delightful — in a brutal, darkly comic way, of course.

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