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 3 years ago
The last line says it all: We have become a gullible breed.
Thomas Scanlan posted over 3 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 3 years ago
Thanks Tom!
John Russo posted over 3 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

Twitter

TVNewsCheck

Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for July 26, 2016
  • 1.
    1.9/7
  • 2.
    1.2/4
  • 3.
    0.7/3
  • 4.
    0.6/2
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.4/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • 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.

  • Dominic Patten

    There are a lot of good things to say about the near-perfect The Night Manager. But it’s best to cut to the core and say that the Susanne Bier-directed miniseries is simply great television. Now, co-production already played in the UK earlier this year where it was a ratings hit and cultural phenomenon. No doubts as to why. The six-part series airing in the U.S. on AMC starring Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston, Olivia Colman and Elizabeth Debicki is worthy of all of the accolades and adjectives with which one can praise a show – and this in an era of TV excellence. The actors are all consistently at their very best here, with Oscar winner Bier never better behind the camera. Watch Night Manager week by week or in one DVR’d binge, but don’t miss the excellence that is this adaptation of John le Carré’s 1993 novel — you will be the lesser for it if you do.

  • Mark Dawidziak

    From the first frame, it's clear that Jackie Robinson is a genuine labor of love. The warmly crafted two-part, four-hour PBS documentary from filmmaker Ken Burns positively glows with its admiration for the man and his accomplishments. Unabashedly positive in its overall approach? Yes, and Burns is somewhat old-fashioned in that regard. He believes that admiration is a good and legitimate reason to compose a biography of someone. He's not going to apologize for that. That doesn't mean you ignore the flaws and frailties. But Burns, like historian David McCullough, maintains that biographies can celebrate worthy American lives, not merely tear them down.

  • Robert Bianco

    NBC is clearly betting a show that’s merely pleasant can survive in a crowded TV universe. And who knows, with Crowded, NBC could be right. Certainly pleasant is in short supply these days. Admittedly, “undemanding” is not exactly a strong endorsement, and NBC is unlikely to build an ad campaign around the show freeing you from weekly commitment pressure. But it’s something. And here’s something else, and something better, Crowded has to offer: Patrick Warburton and Carrie Preston, two of TV's most skilled and appealing actors. Put them together, and you have the strongest inducement to make room for their sitcom. Two may not count as a crowd, but these two just may be enough for Crowded.

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