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Zombie warning issued via Emergency Alert System
February 12, 2013 5:40 AM   Subscribe


 
Damn. I live right by the cemeter
posted by RedEmma at 5:46 AM on February 12, 2013 [43 favorites]


Anybody who would hack into the Emergency Alert System without also hacking into the website and posting that the "message was bogus" message was bogus, and that in fact the DEAD ARE INDEED FEASTING ON THE LIVING, is just negligent.

I mean, what kind of braindead monster would skip that crucial followup?
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 5:46 AM on February 12, 2013 [7 favorites]


So which message are we expected to believe?
That disclaimer might be false.
posted by MtDewd at 5:47 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Screw it: I'm taking Clem and leaving the city. And no damn boats or motels this time.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:52 AM on February 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Where's Carl?
posted by Rock Steady at 5:53 AM on February 12, 2013 [23 favorites]


You know, there's no SAME message code for Zombie Attack.

I guess it would have to go out as a CEM (Civil Emergency Message). Related. There's a Shelter In Place Warning (SPW), but there isn't a Run Like Hell Warning (RHW).

I think the Emergency Alert System is sadly unprepared for these sorts of these threats.
posted by eriko at 5:54 AM on February 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


With that infomercial playing in the background, the news of the imminent destruction of mankind came as kind of a relief.
posted by DU at 5:55 AM on February 12, 2013 [19 favorites]


This would be a refreshing change from the usual winter storm warnings. And I can still see a role for my trusty John Deere snowblower in the carnage to come as well.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:56 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, on watching it again, I note it went out as a LAE (Local Emergency Message). I'm also impressed at how evil the computer generated voice sounded.

And, btw, it's Pancake Day. Bonus!
posted by eriko at 5:57 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I can still see a role for my trusty John Deere snowblower in the carnage to come as well.

No, Zombies are easy. Surround your house with treadmills.
posted by eriko at 5:57 AM on February 12, 2013 [24 favorites]


Good think I laid in all that food and ammunition...

Who's crazy now?
posted by Fists O'Fury at 5:57 AM on February 12, 2013


This has all the hallmarks of the ongoing Crash Override/Acid Burn rivalry.
posted by OmieWise at 5:58 AM on February 12, 2013 [29 favorites]


Holy Cow, that fried egg maker is the laziest gadget ever.

Also, sunny side up ftw.
posted by marienbad at 5:59 AM on February 12, 2013


Proud to see my hometown make it to the blue.
posted by msbrauer at 6:01 AM on February 12, 2013


So... the emergency alert system is hackable?

That's... not good, right?
posted by ook at 6:06 AM on February 12, 2013 [14 favorites]


I'd actually guess it wasn't hacked, per se. For one thing, it's an old system and so was never intended to be connected to the Internet. And who would have done it since then and why? So the station manager can post alerts from home at midnight?

Then there's the professionalism. This wasn't "zombies lol". It had a list of counties and the rest of the message about what to do, where to tune in, etc.

Basically, I'm saying it was an inside job. Zombies have control of the TV station. Or possibly someone made the message as a joke, even years ago, and it was aired inadvertently or as a prank by an insider.
posted by DU at 6:10 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know this is all in jest, but I'm having trouble seeing the humor in zombie outbreaks. Couldn't they have just declared a pancake shortage instead?
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:10 AM on February 12, 2013


It had a list of counties and the rest of the message about what to do, where to tune in, etc.

They missed two tricks. First, they put it details about "on screen messages". You don't refer to the medium in alerts, because they go as text messages which may, or may not, be read aloud, and the same message goes out over all channels. So, hard to watch for on-screen messages on a NOAA weather alert radio.

Secondly, after all that "watch for onscreen messages", they then ended with "This transmitter is shutting down, tune to 920AM" -- oops.

But it was well done -- they got the headers right to get the county list up and the activation/termination sequences right.

The ugly/funny thing would have been if they'd been on one of the controlling stations, because when they did that, every station listening to that one for alerts would have also alerted if they served the counties listed.
posted by eriko at 6:18 AM on February 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Those were some pretty good looking pancakes.
posted by HuronBob at 6:25 AM on February 12, 2013


Couldn't they have just declared a pancake shortage instead?

You... you monster!
posted by shakespeherian at 6:31 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


The first place to look to find who did this is the Perfect Pancake company.
posted by birdherder at 6:31 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I watched this on mute just now and was disappointed the deaf would have no idea the zombies were coming, but instead that pancakes could be made four at a time with absolutely no fuss or spatula.

Viral zombie outbreak for the hearing, pancakes for the rest?
posted by channey at 6:37 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh God, it's the Bogus! The Bogus has risen! Run for your lives!
posted by Segundus at 6:40 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


They're running ads for whatever-the-latest-shitty-zombie-movie-is with an Emergency Broadcast System shtick, but it's not at all convincing. I wonder if this is just an alternate they shopped around that was rejected by every other station.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:42 AM on February 12, 2013


There's something wonderful about hearing that emergency message over the vision of an infomercial for yet another unnecessary kitchen accessory.

consume
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 6:49 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zombies have overrun the place for years, so this warning is too little, too late.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:49 AM on February 12, 2013


*smh* This is my station...as in, I'm the online producer/social media dude. The onslaught of emails, comments, tweets, etc, has been...um...astonishing.

msbrauer: cool! Are you a Bison, a Rustler, or other?
posted by davidmsc at 6:52 AM on February 12, 2013 [16 favorites]


Clearly this was the work of an overzealous station manager who broadcast the emergency message before the feds arrived and ordered the station to issue a retraction. Meanwhile, the zombie horde is being contained somewhere in Montana as scientists scramble to come up with a cure.
posted by deathpanels at 6:52 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cure, schmure. The Air Force is just itching to let loose a fuel-air bomb and be done with it.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:54 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Obviously fake. If there were zombies in Great Falls, Montana, how would anyone ever know?
posted by Naberius at 6:55 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


This has all the hallmarks of the ongoing Crash Override/Acid Burn rivalry.

What are you, stoned or stupid? It's totally something that the no-nickname Joey would do, like that time he hacked a bank across state lines. A true hacker wouldn't pull a stunt to scare the masses, they'd get the station to play their favorite episode of "The Outer Limits" or something like that.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:04 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


See also: Road sign hacked to warn of zombies ahead (and to inform Mario that the princess is in the other castle, though I'm not sure how that is related to the zombie warning, except to show that these signs aren't that hard to program, or it wouldn't happen so often)
posted by filthy light thief at 7:10 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can I just say that I'm ready for all this zombie shit to be over?
posted by jquinby at 7:10 AM on February 12, 2013 [10 favorites]


Can I just say that I'm ready for all this zombie shit to be over?

Really. The whole zombies thing is undead to me.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:13 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


According to the warning, Gallatin County is clear (so far)... but we all know how fast these things spread. Just to be safe I'm going to stay home and decapitate anyone who approaches my house.
posted by enkd at 7:13 AM on February 12, 2013


This is my biggest irrational fear--zombies attacking. I would have freaked my shit out.
posted by stormpooper at 7:13 AM on February 12, 2013


davidmsc: Rustler. My dad was in the Air Force and retired in Montana (both parents are from the state) when I was in 7th grade, so I finished middle school and then high school in Great Falls. I don't live there anymore, though. Are you in that neck of the woods?
posted by msbrauer at 7:20 AM on February 12, 2013


I can still see a role for my trusty John Deere snowblower in the carnage to come as well

One of Larry Correia's "Monster Hunter" novels has a scene involving a snow cutter and a crowd of werewolves. It is truly glorious.
posted by mrbill at 7:33 AM on February 12, 2013


msbrauer: yes ma'am! Transferred here to Malmstrom in '02, fell in love with MT, retired from AF in '07, and now am the online media producer for KRTV :-) Both of my daughters are Rustlers, and so is my fiancee! Let me know when you're back in town for a vacay, buy ya lunch!
posted by davidmsc at 7:44 AM on February 12, 2013


Are these shuffling zombies or running zombies? This is important.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:58 AM on February 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Skipping zombies. The worst kind.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:00 AM on February 12, 2013 [8 favorites]


Jim Romenesko updated that the zombie alert hack also aired on two stations in Marquette, Michigan [link may not work because of stupid news website idiocy]:

Hackers get access to EAS at pair of Upper Peninsula TV stations, send out zombie hoax

Hackers yesterday gained access to the Emergency Alert System at two Marquette television stations, sending out a scrolling Civil Emergency warning with audio claiming that bodies of the dead were rising from their graves and attacking the living. The hoax aired during the afternoon on PBS affiliate WNMU-TV Ch. 13 and in prime time on ABC affiliate WBUP-TV Ch. 10.

WBUP Station Manager and News Director Cynthia Thompson confirmed the EAS hijacking on WBUP's web site, "On behalf of ABC 10, please know that our personnel are working diligently to close any gaps in our security systems that could allow this to reoccur and to lock out any further intrusions. We've made contact with state cyber crime authorities who will help us investigate this incident. Again, our apologies to those of you who were scared, shocked or confused."

WNMU-TV station manager Eric Smith has also confirmed the intrusion and stated that the Northern Michigan University Public Safety Department, the Michigan State Police, and the Michigan Association of Broadcasters are involved in the investigation that this morning identified the origin of the hacking overseas.


Youtube clip. I bet we'll find out about more of these soon.
posted by mediareport at 8:01 AM on February 12, 2013


"Overseas", eh? No mention of Chinese Cybergeddonpocalypse yet?
posted by hattifattener at 8:20 AM on February 12, 2013


I bet we'll find out about more of these soon

If they had security lax enough to allow this remotely, they're unlikely to have proper logs. I suspect it'll be lost and forgotten in a few weeks, even with various investigation organizations involved. You'd be surprised at the poor level of security and logging in even organizations that are supposed to care, I doubt a place like this has anywhere near the appropriate level of controls.
posted by odinsdream at 8:21 AM on February 12, 2013


The part I loved was seeing Gayle King tut-tut about this on CBS this morning. Anything that annoys America's Squarest Woman is aces by me.
posted by COBRA! at 8:23 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Rotato Zombies are on this. Paging Manny.
posted by oneironaut at 8:26 AM on February 12, 2013


I bet we'll find out about more of these soon.

I'm sure we will. I know of one EAS device manufacturer whose box is based on a stripped-down version of (I think) Fedora Core 8. Who knows how many remote exploits are just sitting there, waiting to offer up root? Combine that with a poorly configured network, and there are probably hundreds of these boxes ready to send fake EAS alerts.

And that doesn't take into account any of the other hardware out there, much of which is unix-based and infrequently patched. A large portion of media distribution these days is IP over satellite, so there's a lot of network hardware in the mix. And in the interest of reliability and needing 24/7 uptime, broadcasters tend to not be vigilant about updating their hardware.
posted by god hates math at 8:31 AM on February 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


To be fair, zombies in Montana would be an improvement.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:41 AM on February 12, 2013


Never cry wolf.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:44 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


Zombies can't cry. Well, maybe fresh zombies with intact tear ducts can appear to cry, but it's less than a simulacrum of crying.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:47 AM on February 12, 2013


Given the "threaten to sue / arrest the researcher, then do nothing about the hole" model of security that is currently in play, if you discovered this exploit and wanted to let it be known that, "Hey, this needs fixing!" this might be the very best method to use.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:53 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


If they can do this, wouldn't it take much to spoof an Emergency Action Notification...

The possible consequences of a fake nuclear war announcement hitting the airwaves unsettles me.
posted by banal evil at 9:11 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


If they can do this, wouldn't it take much to spoof an Emergency Action Notification.

There were authentication protocols for EAN under EBS, however, that may have changed with EAS. EBS had a human component -- it was primarily based on TTYs, and an alert had a codeword, which changed daily. Certainly not uncrackable, but you did need to know more than the protocol.

EAS was designed to be completely automatic because the biggest failure in EBS weather alerts was stations not noticing the alerts coming in, and more and more stations refusing to take part if they needed the desk manned 24x7.

However, you can bet that measures would be taken if they did spoof an EAN and it went national -- they would have just done a denial of service attack against the entire US broadcast transmission system.
posted by eriko at 9:21 AM on February 12, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hackers get access to EAS at pair of Upper Peninsula TV stations, send out zombie hoax

Actually, I bet they got access to one, and the other station was set to rebroadcast the alerts from the first one. That's the way EAS works -- they don't try to originate from every station in the area, they make a direct connection to some stations, and other stations listen for the alert tones and rebroadcast the message.

During an EAN, the secondary stations broadcast only a message to tune to the primary stations, and then shut down. The primaries have the equipment to receive and retransmit voice, the secondaries can only handle text messages, thus the synthesized voice.

The fact that the hackers added the "shutting down, tune to..." message at the end implies that they knew that this was part of certain alerts, and they *might* have been trying to send an EAN, but couldn't for some reason, so they went with a LAE.
posted by eriko at 9:25 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd been wondering why the highway signs were flashing and indicating that there was a Barbara Alert.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


According to this, one of the Michigan stations traced the source to an overseas IP. They also said they'd found, and closed, a hole.

Yay, internet!
posted by eriko at 9:27 AM on February 12, 2013


I know this is all in jest, but I'm having trouble seeing the humor in zombie outbreaks.

Right with you there. I lost my little brother in the 2008 zombie attack.
posted by ymgve at 9:34 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


one of the Michigan stations traced the source to an overseas IP. They also said they'd found, and closed, a hole.
Sure. That's what they want you to believe.

In all seriousness, this seems like as good a time as any to unleash The Peoria Plague on an unsuspecting MeFite population.
posted by pxe2000 at 9:37 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


They wouldn't dare try to mess with us here in Missoula - we're all set up with Zombie Tools.
posted by ikahime at 9:38 AM on February 12, 2013


Can I just say that I'm ready for all this zombie shit to be over?

Actually there is a reason behind some of this Zombie Apocolypse Readiness stuff (like the CDC site and I have seen others). There was a study done that showed when you start talking about preparedness for actual, possible disasters, people tended to either figure it could never happen to them, or start freaking out. Either way, they shut down and didn't listen. If you talk about preparedness in a fun, but improbable context, like Zombie Apocolypse, people are more likely to actually listen and get involved, even if just for fun. And if you're prepared for a Zombie Apocolypse, you're better prepared for a real disaster. At least, it gets people thinking about preparedness.

On the other hand, I think the Zombie stuff is getting overdone and entering tune-out territory. They will have to come up with a new type of Apocolypse to prepare for.
posted by pbrim at 9:42 AM on February 12, 2013


I think the Zombie stuff is getting overdone and entering tune-out territory. They will have to come up with a new type of Apocolypse to prepare for.
BIRDEMIC
posted by pxe2000 at 9:52 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can I just say that I'm ready for all this zombie shit to be over?

Yea, the trend towards vampires has been so great.

/hamburger
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:00 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


They will have to come up with a new type of Apocolypse to prepare for.

...THE CDC HAS DETERMINED THE UNITED STATES IS COMPLETELY OUT OF BEER....

You know, the internet needs an EAS message generator.
posted by eriko at 10:05 AM on February 12, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Obama.
posted by cthuljew at 10:19 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thobama.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:30 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


They will have to come up with a new type of Apocolypse to prepare for.

Robots, or the razor blade singularity.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 10:38 AM on February 12, 2013


"This was a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

"Had this been an actual Zombie Apocalypse, we would have been scared shitless and you would have heard it in our voice."
posted by mazola at 11:14 AM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


So it seems this was done during a commercial for a device that flips stuff over for you that is not a spatula and later during The Bachelor; I'm not sure how I feel about their methods but their timing is IMPECCABLE.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:18 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Had this been an actual Zombie Apocalypse, we would have been scared shitless and you would have heard it in our voice."

You know, that's actually a good point. Almost all of these, when presented as audio, are actually read out text from voice synthesizers.

Of course, when the voice synthesizers start sounding scared, we are really in trouble.
posted by eriko at 11:29 AM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


deer living peepl, do not belief this messej, plez eat ur pankak an then hav nice nap
posted by Twang at 11:49 AM on February 12, 2013 [8 favorites]






This morning DJs at WIZM in LaCrosse Wisconsin replayed the warning over the air, this triggered an EAS activation at local CBS affiliate WKBT

Ha... it's like a virus.
posted by odinsdream at 12:49 PM on February 12, 2013


odinsdream: Ha... it's like a virus.

Mrs. French's cat is missing. The signs are posted all over town. "Have you seen Honey?"
posted by Rock Steady at 1:07 PM on February 12, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still think it is only a mater of time until something like this sets of some of our aging and highly armed citizens just as a zombie pub crawl full of hipsters is passing buy and the shotgun shells start flying. In fact that would make a great movie.
posted by The Violet Cypher at 1:49 PM on February 12, 2013


"Had this been an actual Zombie Apocalypse, we would have been scared shitless and you would have heard it in our voice."
You know, that's actually a good point.
Actually?

:_(
posted by mazola at 2:53 PM on February 12, 2013


It's looking like the voiceover used in the hack was most likely pulled from this YouTube video posted in 2008
posted by banal evil at 4:13 PM on February 12, 2013


ook: "So... the emergency alert system is hackable?

That's... not good, right?
"


Well, not when you put it like that.

I giggled like a loon.
posted by deborah at 9:01 PM on February 12, 2013 [1 favorite]






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