Worry More About Hackers, Less About Zombies

Sue Marquette Poremba

I’m going to admit right up front that the whole zombie fascination has gone right over my head. It might have something to do with being spooked after watching the original “Night of the Living Dead” with my dorm mates and having people bang on my first-floor window all through the night.

But there is a zombie story that caught my eye. Television stations in Michigan and Montana warned their viewers of an impending zombie attack when someone hacked into the stations’ Emergency Alert System. Frankly, I don’t know which part of the story was more disturbing: that the hack happened or that people actually called the stations to find out if it was true.

According to eSecurity Planet:

“Karole White, the president and CEO of the Michigan Association of Broadcasters said ... a breach like this his has never happened before," UpperMichigansSource.com reports. "Until a year ago, the stations used an old EAS that was not connected to the Internet. It was a telephone based system. The new system is Web connected, that makes it slightly more vulnerable,” said White.

The zombie angle is what got this story so many national headlines, but to me, the takeaway is the quote by Karole White: The Web connection makes EAS more vulnerable.

I don’t know how many people truly pay attention to EAS (once there was a test in my area and my husband, who was watching TV at the time, had no idea what it was). I mostly find it an annoyance, to be honest. It seems like the EAS weekly or monthly tests happen when I’m watching a show after midnight. Most people aren’t disturbed by the tests because most people are sleeping at 1 am. However, when the EAS kicks in during the middle of the afternoon or evening, I do take notice because I know it is a real emergency. This zombie story illustrates clearly how easy it would for someone to take over EAS and keep it from broadcasting in a real emergency situation. Or hack into it to broadcast false information.

Sometimes we forget just how much of a role Internet connectivity has in our daily lives. This is a stark reminder of the need for data security anywhere there is a network connection.



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