Cyber Attack Sets Off Emergency Alarms Across Dallas Over the Weekend

Media Division | April 11, 2017

The motives behind a cyber attack can often time be unclear, as some can appear to be purely for nothing more than malicious intent or disruption.  It seems that it simply pleases some hackers to be able to compromise and interrupt systems or networks.  This is what appears to be the case in a cyber attack over the weekend upon the city of Dallas, in which the emergency alarms across the city were set off.

The Effects of the Attack

The emergency alarm system of the city is comprised of 156 alarms throughout the city that are used to warn of severe weather, such as tornados.  The attacker had somehow hacked into this system and set off all of the alarms late in the night.  The sirens went on for about 90 minutes, beginning at 11:42pm CDT and continuing until 1:17am when engineers were finally able to shut them down manually.  Emergency management director Rocky Vaz had 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.”  And according to a city spokeswoman, Sana Syed, the attack is believed to have been perpetrated by someone in the area.  Per the most recent reports, the police had not been called in, but the attack is being analyzed by system engineers, and the Federal Communications Commission was contacted as well.

No reports have been released that stated the exact method that the attacker had used to compromise the system.  Though, there has been speculation that it could have been spear-phishing or a hacking of the alarm system communication channel.  There has also been the suspicion that it was pulled off through somehow signaling a fake tornado in the system.   As the investigation of the incident progresses, perhaps further details will come out in regard to the methods and purposes.

Vulnerability of Emergency Systems

Unfortunately, there have been many other emergency system hacks in various cities.  For instance, there was a recent incident in which attackers used “zombie calls” to paralyze 911 systems in 12 states.  Another attack within the past few months left a city’s 911 personnel operating with pens, paper, and whiteboards to be able to dispatch first responders.  In fact, there have been concerns arisen from cyber security experts in regard to the vulnerabilities of the whole 911 system.  As more attacks are able to compromise these systems in a variety of ways, the need for increased cyber security continues to become more apparent.

Protecting from Remote Attacks with Anti-Phishing Solutions

If this incident turns out to have been perpetrated through a phishing attack, it will join the massive number of other successful ones this year.  In fact, phishing is one of the most frequently employed methods by cyber attackers.  These malicious campaigns are quite simple for the attacker to set up and employ, and unfortunately, many people continue to fall for them, which is why they continue to be highly used.  This is why is it critical that organizations of all types and sizes have proper anti-phishing solutions in place to prevent and mitigate these attacks.  An organization needs to have comprehensive cyber security implemented to prevent phishing, but also in the event of a successful attack, they need to be able to trace and eliminate the source of it.  Massive Alliance’s anti-phishing solutions encompass all sides of these potential situations and help to make an organization more formidable against phishing.

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