Dallas citizens woken by blare of 156 emergency sirens after hack

10 Apr 2017

Emergency siren. Image: Chanwoot_Boonsuya/Shutterstock

In another worrying example of security oversight, Dallas was subjected to the blare of numerous emergency sirens after hackers gained access to the city’s systems.

While the citizens of Dallas were either in bed or just getting their night started on 7 April, panic ensued after 156 of the city’s emergency sirens began blaring.

Starting at 11.40pm local time and lasting until around 1.20am, Dallas’s emergency service numbers were bombarded by people worried about why the sirens were sounding.

As it turns out, there was no emergency at all – at least in the physical sense. Tensions were high, however, as citizens feared a terrorist attack in the wake of the bombing of Syria, according to a spokesperson for Dallas.

According to The New York Times, the actual reason for the hours of audio barrage was that the city’s IT systems had been hacked into.

While details on the extent of the breach have not been revealed, it is believed that it was not a foreign attack, and that it was local to the Dallas area.

A continuous attack

The city’s mayor, Mike Rawlings, described the breach in a Facebook post as “an attack on our emergency notification system”, calling for a considerable infrastructure overhaul to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

“This is yet another serious example of the need for us to upgrade and better safeguard our city’s technology infrastructure,” he said.

“It’s a costly proposition, which is why every dollar of taxpayer money must be spent with critical needs such as this in mind.”

The director of Dallas’s emergency management office, Rocky Vaz, said that every time the technicians tried to deactivate the sirens, they would immediately come back on.

Having now pinpointed the origin of the breach in the city’s systems, Dallas is now calling on the Federal Communications Commission to assist in bolstering its cybersecurity capabilities.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic