It’s the dead of winter,
for crying out loud. The good people of Great Falls, Mont., are not about to
fall for some malarkey about bodies rising from graves in February. Not unless
great-granddad was buried with a set of chisels and a blowtorch.
Based on what I’ve read so far this week, the Emergency Alert System hack that
warned of zombie invasions in a handful of communities did not elicit so much
as a phone call from the general public. Given the cultural appetite for
zombies, one would expect people to want to see them. You can bet if it went
out as a text, the malls of Great Falls would have emptied of Millennials in a
Maybe the public is just so used to the EAS tones that they pay no attention to
them. They are, after all, most often accompanied by, “This is a test. This is
only a test of the emergency broadcast system. If this were a real emergency…”
Unfortunately, EAS receivers are not so indifferent, and I have to wonder, as
one of the great unwashed, why are these things still activated by an audio
tone that just about anyone can record? Especially now that the EAS is hooked
up to the Interwebs? Word is, a YouTube user
fake alert used in the hack. It certainly sounds genuine, except for the bit
about zombies. The tones are spot on and were enough to trigger a downstream TV
station’s EAS receiver when a couple of uninformed DJs replayed the spot at a
primary-entry-point radio station in La Crosse, Wis.
The maker of the video, Tyreehot, associated with www.hauntedhotsauce.com
said he had no connection to the Montana hack, though in his YouTube comments
admits that it was his voice used in it.
“I created this video four years ago as a Halloween prank. It’s been ‘borrowed’
by many others in the past… if the ‘feds’ can connect me here in Atlanta to a
TV station in Montana, then they’re
creative ones,” he said.
Maybe, but here’s how the feds feel about their EAS tones: “No person may transmit or cause to transmit the EAS
codes or attention signal, or a recording or simulation thereof, in any
circumstance other than in an actual National, State or Local Area emergency or
authorized test of the EAS. Any rebroadcast of the EAS tones and attention
signal not only would violate FCC rules, but also pose a public danger because
rebroadcast of these tones could trigger a false alert from EAS equipment that
picks up such a rebroadcast.”
So now we have the tones all over the Internet from which the EAS system now
picks up activations. Add a little hackitude, and some dude in Atlanta scores
free ad time on a few cold-climate stations for Haunted Hot Sauce.
Whether it was coincidental or otherwise, the zombie hack occurred in
conjunction with a threat by Anonymous to disrupt online streaming coverage of
President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Since the EAS is also used to
deliver emergency presidential messages, whoever pulled this off had best be
off the grid. The FCC, FEMA and the FBI are saying no-thing, which can only mean one thing—that Monday is a federal holiday.
I reach a bit here, but
I’m guessing POTUS is not amused. I’m sure the cybersecurity executive
order-Anonymous threat-zombie EAS hack is just a crazy coincidental mélange, but
you have to admit that as crazy coincidental mélanges go, this one rises to the
level of almost epic.
Whether or not the consumer press picks up on the implications of this one
still remains to be seen. The nation’s emergency alert network was hijacked for
the first time since it was created. How hard would it be to edit together a
fake video of the president warning us of a more realistic hostile invasion? We’d
be shooting at each other like clay pigeons.
Thankfully, I’m skinny, and look remarkably like my surroundings.