Not so silent night: Dallas emergency siren system hacked

April 8, 2017 by Jamie Stengle

Hackers struck the sirens Dallas uses to alert residents to take shelter from inclement weather, triggering intermittent false alarms for about an hour and a half until officials deactivated the system early Saturday morning.

The person or people responsible were able to hack into a part of the system that was communicating with all 156 of the city's sirens, Rocky Vaz, who heads the city's Office of Emergency Management, said at a news conference.

Technicians were trying to determine how to bring the system back online without the risk of it being hacked again, he said. In the meantime, the public has access to other alert systems. Vaz said he hoped to have the siren system back up by Sunday.

The sirens began sounding at 11:42 p.m. Friday. Officials deactivated the entire system by 1:17 a.m. Saturday. Vaz said the sirens went through about 15 cycles of a 90-second siren activation.

"We shut it down as quickly as we could, taking into consideration all of the precautions and protocols we had to take to make sure that we were not compromising our 156-siren system," he said.

City spokeswoman Sana Syed said officials believe the hack came from the Dallas area. Vaz said city officials have asked the Federal Communications Commission for help in determining who was behind the hack. He said police were not involved yet.

"We can't talk a whole lot about the hack itself, because obviously we don't want this to happen again," Syed said.

Syed said that there was a surge in calls to 911 during the time the sirens were sounding. She said that they had about 4,400 calls from about 11:30 p.m. Friday to about 3 a.m. Saturday. She said that usually from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. they get about half that number of calls. The largest surge came from 12 a.m. to 12:15 a.m., when about 800 calls were received. The longest wait time was six minutes.

Explore further: 1.4M Illinois job seekers may have had personal data hacked

Related Stories

Car horns warn against natural disasters

July 20, 2009

In the past, sirens howled to warn the population against floods, large fires or chemical accidents. Today, however, there is no extensive warning system in Germany, as most sirens were dismantled after the Cold War. Researchers ...

Dallas officials say Ebola response cost $155,000

December 4, 2014

Officials say the emergency response to the Ebola crisis in Dallas cost the city about $155,000, including nearly $27,000 to care for the dog of a nurse infected with the virus.

Recommended for you

A not-quite-random walk demystifies the algorithm

December 15, 2017

The algorithm is having a cultural moment. Originally a math and computer science term, algorithms are now used to account for everything from military drone strikes and financial market forecasts to Google search results.

US faces moment of truth on 'net neutrality'

December 14, 2017

The acrimonious battle over "net neutrality" in America comes to a head Thursday with a US agency set to vote to roll back rules enacted two years earlier aimed at preventing a "two-speed" internet.

FCC votes along party lines to end 'net neutrality' (Update)

December 14, 2017

The Federal Communications Commission repealed the Obama-era "net neutrality" rules Thursday, giving internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T a free hand to slow or block websites and apps as they see fit ...

The wet road to fast and stable batteries

December 14, 2017

An international team of scientists—including several researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory—has discovered an anode battery material with superfast charging and stable operation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.