Author Topic: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas  (Read 10052 times)

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Offline Homer J Simpson

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Offline blueskull

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2017, 01:07:43 am »
Some guy just had too much time and wanted to do some time.
Made me think stupid things I did when I was a kid. Me and a few friends bet who has the guts to call 110 (Chinese 911) using public telephone.
 

Offline tautech

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2017, 01:11:14 am »
Some guy just had too much time and wanted to do some time.
Made me think stupid things I did when I was a kid. Me and a few friends bet who has the guts to call 110 (Chinese 911) using public telephone.
This is the closest I can find for dealing with naughty kids.   ;)

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Offline xmo

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #3 on: April 09, 2017, 02:03:30 am »
I have no knowledge of the system in Dallas, but in many cities the sirens are activated by a radio transmission similar to the way a pager is alerted.

It would be fairly simple for a radio knowledgeable person to record the signal when the sirens are activated by the system, then replay the signal at a later date .

Such a "hack" would be virtually impossible to trace retroactively.  It's the sort of thing a person could get away with...once.
 

Offline Cerebus

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #4 on: April 09, 2017, 02:04:12 am »
Quote
All 156 emergency sirens were activated around 11:40 p.m. ...

The Office of Emergency Management was able to turn off all the sirens by 1:20 a.m. ...

Not very good at "Emergency Management" if it took them the best part of 2 hours; not much sense of urgency in that response at all.

Quote
Rocky Vaz, director of the Dallas Office of Emergency Management, said authorities had to turn off the city's entire emergency system to stop the sirens.

So as well as poor security we also have poor resilience. Killing off the "entire emergency system" to stop the sirens implies that they had to knock out other parts of the emergency systems too. I hope they learn some lessons from this but I suspect that the response will be more about bluster and punishing someone, as it usually is.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2017, 02:08:39 am by Cerebus »
Anybody got a syringe I can use to squeeze the magic smoke back into this?
 
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Offline james_s

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #5 on: April 09, 2017, 05:00:29 am »
While I'm sure it was annoying for those who live in the area I'll admit it made me chuckle. Sounds like something I would have done when I was a teenager if I'd had the means. We don't have any sort of warning sirens out here though.
 

Offline blueskull

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #6 on: April 09, 2017, 05:11:30 am »
While I'm sure it was annoying for those who live in the area I'll admit it made me chuckle. Sounds like something I would have done when I was a teenager if I'd had the means. We don't have any sort of warning sirens out here though.

Not sure about other places, but my university has emergency broadcasting system (blue lights), and they test that system every month at a random time.
Thank god I don't live on campus anymore. When I was living on campus, they do fire alarm drills as well, and sometimes it means they will set the alarm at any moment, sometimes even in the early morning.
To a night owl like me, it definitely sucks. Not only fire drills, sometimes an idiot smoking in his dorm can also trigger the alarm, and evacuating a massive L-shape building.
I wonder how cops and firefighters think -- they come to the same building every so and often, only to find fake alarms 100% of the time.
 

Offline MarkS

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #7 on: April 09, 2017, 07:08:46 am »
This isn't funny and is no prank. Whoever did this needs to be caught and punished. This area is known for high tornado risks. These sirens are the only way to communicate the danger to the entire population and it must both work flawlessly and be trusted.
 

Offline hendorog

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #8 on: April 09, 2017, 08:41:16 am »
Turned out to be quite a good test in the end - they now know they have zero ability to control the sirens at short notice in an emergency situation.

Knowing that they can remedy it, and if there are a couple of brain cells spare perhaps review the system for other shortcomings.
Somewhere, someone will be muttering 'I told them this would happen and they didn't listen'

 
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Online nctnico

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #9 on: April 09, 2017, 09:34:26 am »
Turned out to be quite a good test in the end - they now know they have zero ability to control the sirens at short notice in an emergency situation.

Knowing that they can remedy it, and if there are a couple of brain cells spare perhaps review the system for other shortcomings.
Somewhere, someone will be muttering 'I told them this would happen and they didn't listen'
Those are exactly my thoughts. Pranks like these reveal problems which can be catastrophic in different circumstances. I hope it has been a good wakeup call for the people responsible for the system.
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Offline MarkS

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #10 on: April 09, 2017, 09:39:31 am »
I don't know how it works in Dallas, but here in Oklahoma City, they test the sirens every Saturday at noon. This wasn't a test and it wasn't necessary. Sure, it exposed a security vulnerability, but at what cost? The population MUST trust this system. They have to be confident that if the sirens are going off, either the system is under test or there is a legitimate emergency. This event undermines that.

I am curious if this has anything to do with T-Mobile's continual issues with Dallas' 911 system? Neither the city, nor T-Mobile can figure out why this is happening. Possibly a multi-stage attack on Dallas' emergency management systems? But to what end?

https://www.engadget.com/2017/03/16/t-mobile-ghost-calls-to-911-linked-to-two-deaths-in-dallas/
 

Offline donotdespisethesnake

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #11 on: April 09, 2017, 09:52:28 am »
All the reports are blaming hackers, but there is no evidence that it was due to hackers and not a malfunction. I'm not saying it wasn't, but the assumption by the authorities seems to be "it wasn't any of us, so it must have been a hacker".

Quote
The late night sounding of emergency warning sirens in the city of Dallas, Texas, was due to a hacker being able to access and repeatedly activate the system, Dallas city officials say.

The sirens were first heard at about 11:45 p.m., and sounded on and off intermittently across the city.

"All 156 sirens in the city were activated last night," Dallas public information officer Sana Syed said. "It does appear at this time that it was a hack. We do believe that it was from the Dallas area."

Someone was able to gain access to the system and activate the sirens, city officials said.

Another lesson to learn, 911 was jammed because thousands of people rang up to ask "are we being attacked?" because of concerns about "what is going on overseas".
Bob
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Offline MarkS

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #12 on: April 09, 2017, 09:59:58 am »
Another lesson to learn, 911 was jammed because thousands of people rang up to ask "are we being attacked?" because of concerns about "what is going on overseas".

The 911 issues I was mentioning are different. For reasons that no one can figure out, when a Dallas area T-Mobile customer dials 911, multiple calls are placed simultaneously and then hang up. 911 dispatchers are required to call back any hang ups to determine if there is an actual emergency. This results in dispatchers spending inordinate amounts of time calling back a person multiple times, even though they may still be on the phone with another dispatcher. This is breaking the system and people have died.
 

Offline hendorog

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #13 on: April 09, 2017, 10:02:55 am »
I don't know how it works in Dallas, but here in Oklahoma City, they test the sirens every Saturday at noon. This wasn't a test and it wasn't necessary.

Of course you are correct, but when emotion is removed there is a learning in just about anything.



 

Offline MarkS

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #14 on: April 09, 2017, 10:05:07 am »
Of course you are correct, but when emotion is removed there is a learning in just about anything.

I agree. These systems should be secure. It is just that we shouldn't be learning about any vulnerabilities after deployment. Once in the field, they have to work.
 

Offline RoGeorge

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #15 on: April 09, 2017, 10:14:56 am »
Huh?! So US cities have hundreds of sirens, like in the WWII? Strange.

Can somebody from US tell what is the normal usage for those sirens, and what are people suppose to do when they hear them, please?

Offline hendorog

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #16 on: April 09, 2017, 10:20:19 am »
Of course you are correct, but when emotion is removed there is a learning in just about anything.

I agree. These systems should be secure. It is just that we shouldn't be learning about any vulnerabilities after deployment. Once in the field, they have to work.

Unfortunately with the tech we have today secure with no vulnerabilities (meaning perfectly secure) is not practical - and perhaps possible only with extreme effort. Certainly not cheap anyway.

The question however was not if it was perfectly secure, instead was it even slightly secure. Reading between the lines it sounds like the internet facing part was reasonably secure but the RF interface was relying on security through obscurity.

The fact they couldn't turn it off was interesting. Either the triggering signal was still present and so it kept on firing up, or it really was hacked or it was just a bug.
 

Offline hendorog

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #17 on: April 09, 2017, 10:22:38 am »

Can somebody from US tell what is the normal usage for those sirens, and what are people suppose to do when they hear them, please?

Tornadoes were mentioned. Presumably you have time to find a storm shelter - or put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.
 

Offline MarkS

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #18 on: April 09, 2017, 10:34:43 am »
Huh?! So US cities have hundreds of sirens, like in the WWII? Strange.

Only cities in the Midwest, or where sudden, unpredictable and deadly storms can form in minutes. These are NOT air raid/war sirens from WWII.

Tornadoes were mentioned. Presumably you have time to find a storm shelter - or put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

Yes, these are predominately bad weather sirens. The weather in the Midwest can be very unpredictable and tornadoes can pop up with little warning. These sirens go off once cloud rotation is spotted or once a tornado is reported to have touched down. It's a system designed to work when all others fail. You don't need a phone, T.V., radio or even electricity (the sirens have backup power).
« Last Edit: April 09, 2017, 10:37:40 am by MarkS »
 

Offline Gyro

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #19 on: April 09, 2017, 10:54:13 am »
Sounds like the first trial of a Russian plot to destabilize the US though sleep deprivation!  :=\
Chris

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Offline TerraHertz

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #20 on: April 09, 2017, 10:59:15 am »
I don't know how it works in Dallas, but here in Oklahoma City, they test the sirens every Saturday at noon.

So, the right time to attack Oklahoma City, is Saturday at noon?

Quote
... or there is a legitimate emergency.

There was a legitimate emergency. All the bloody sirens were going from 11:40pm to 1:20am, and no one could stop them. I don't know about you, but I'd find that extremely disturbing.

I don't suppose anyone on the forum lives in Dallas, and can tell us what it sounded like?

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Online PA0PBZ

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #21 on: April 09, 2017, 11:23:11 am »
Huh?! So US cities have hundreds of sirens, like in the WWII? Strange.

We still have about 3800 sirens all over the country (Netherlands), although they will be decommissioned in 2020. It's slowly being replaced by a cell phone alert channel.
Testing is every 1st Monday of the month at noon, and if they go off at a different time you are supposed to watch regional television or radio to find out what's going on.
I think it's a leftover of the cold war, but they are supposed to be used in case of big disasters like a chemical factory on fire. I never heard them apart from the tests.

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Offline timb

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #22 on: April 09, 2017, 11:31:38 am »
Huh?! So US cities have hundreds of sirens, like in the WWII? Strange.

Only cities in the Midwest, or where sudden, unpredictable and deadly storms can form in minutes. These are NOT air raid/war sirens from WWII.

Tornadoes were mentioned. Presumably you have time to find a storm shelter - or put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.

Yes, these are predominately bad weather sirens. The weather in the Midwest can be very unpredictable and tornadoes can pop up with little warning. These sirens go off once cloud rotation is spotted or once a tornado is reported to have touched down. It's a system designed to work when all others fail. You don't need a phone, T.V., radio or even electricity (the sirens have backup power).

Similar sirens are also used in small towns across the US, primarily as a means of recalling volunteer paramedics/firefighters to the station during an emergency call.
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Offline RoGeorge

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #23 on: April 09, 2017, 12:00:19 pm »
Siren usage for fast tornado forming perfectly makes sens, thank you all for explaining this.

Offline MarkS

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Re: Hacker triggeres all 156 emergency sirens in Dallas, Texas
« Reply #24 on: April 09, 2017, 01:25:58 pm »
So, the right time to attack Oklahoma City, is Saturday at noon?

No kidding! That's a running joke. What does happen if a tornado decides to touch down on a Saturday at noon? It's no less likely than any other date/time.

Similar sirens are also used in small towns across the US, primarily as a means of recalling volunteer paramedics/firefighters to the station during an emergency call.

Ah, yes. I forgot about those.
« Last Edit: April 09, 2017, 01:27:43 pm by MarkS »
 


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