Dallas, like many cities across the US, has emergency sirens affixed to various points around the city – you know, those air raid-like klaxons that go off whenever there’s an extreme weather event coming along. This fact alone is not significant.
What is significant, however, is that all 156 of them went off simultaneously in the middle of the night last Friday for a grand total of 22 minutes and 30 seconds.
As the news gave no information about a powerful thunderstorm, a hurricane, earthquake, flood, tornado, volcanic eruption or anything of the sort, plenty of people naturally assumed the world was ending.
As reported by Wired, there were around 4,000 calls to 911 during the cacophony, and emergency services were fairly distracted the entire night.
It appears that this unfortunate and potentially amusing activation of all of Dallas’ emergency sirens was the result not of a glitch, but a hack on the city’s infrastructural systems.
It has suffered from them before, including the time when someone spelled out giggle-worthy and bizarre messages on the city’s digitized road signs, such as “Donald Trump Is A Shapeshifting Lizard!!”
Weirdly, this hack didn’t use the Internet or any of the usual methods you’d associate with contemporary digital sneakery. These sirens are controlled by wireless radio, which means that the hackers likely got hold of some equipment to manipulate radio waves, found out the activation frequency, and transmitted it to the sirens – fairly low-tech by today’s standards.
Officials have said that the hack likely originated within the Dallas area, which means that plenty of Texas will be wandering around this week looking suspiciously at each other.
As several other outlets have suggested, this hack may be a little bit funny, but it also highlights that hackers are incredibly skilled individuals. If they wanted to, they could cause considerable damage – after all, a city’s water supply and its electrical grid are potentially vulnerable to similar kinds of attack.
So it seems that Dallas, and likely plenty of other cities across the US, have a few security flaws to iron out. In the meantime, don’t be surprised if you’re woken at night by the sound of every single klaxon in the city erupting at once in a deafening symphony.
[H/T: Washington Post]