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Several models of Emergency Alert System decoders, used to break into TV and radio broadcasts to announce public safety warnings, have vulnerabilities that would allow hackers to hijack them and deliver fake messages to the public, according to an announcement by a security firm on Monday. The vulnerabilities included a private root SSH key that was distributed in publicly available firmware images that would have allowed an attacker with SSH access to a device to log in with root privileges and issue fake alerts or disable the system. IOActive principal research scientist Mike Davis uncovered the vulnerabilities in the application servers of two digital alerting systems known as DASDEC-I and DASDEC-II. Davis indicated that to resolve the issue would require “re-engineering” of the digital alerting system side as well as firmware updates pushed out to appliances in the field. These included default administrative passwords that customers were forgetting to change after installing the systems. Earlier this year hackers used default credentials to break into the Emergency Alert System at local TV station KRTV in Montana to interrupt programming with an alert about a zombie apocalypse.
During an afternoon broadcast of the Steve Wilkos talk show, a loud buzzer sounded and a banner ran across the top of the screen as an announcer’s voice warned viewers that the zombie apocalypse was upon them. A spokesman for IOActive said that his group released the announcement today only after working with CERT to notify the vendors first and give them time to notify customers and work on fixes. EAS is a descendant of the Emergency Broadcast System established in the 1960s during President John F.

Last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency also launched a wireless alert system that delivers text alerts to mobile phones that are compatible with the wireless alert system.
The wireless text alerts were used to warn Oklahoma residents during recent tornadoes as well as during the Boston Marathon bombing manhunt to tell residents to remain indoors.
China has passed controversial new anti-terrorism laws, saying they are needed to combat growing threats. They’re delivered to phones with a distinctively jarring tone and vibration to distinguish them from regular text messages and advise recipients to tune in to their local radio and television to get more information.
It’s used to alert the public about weather emergencies, disasters and Amber alerts and is also available to the President of the United States to break into programming to announce a national crisis.
The purpose of the test was to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the system for the President to address the public during times of extreme national emergency. Initially, the system was designed so that alerts passed from station to station via the wire services of the Associated Press and United Press International, but it now transmits through analog and digital systems. EAS participants across the country participated in the test.FEMA originated an Emergency Action Notification (EAN) simultaneously to 61 Primary Entry Point (PEP) stations that serve as national-level relay points.
These PEP stations rebroadcasted the message in their coverage area to local primary stations and other monitoring stations.

The test was not a pass or fail measure, but an exercise to proactively identify strengths and opportunities for improvements of the current EAS. This affected the audio quality for many downstream stations and in some cases, resulted in duplicated messages or muted the audio test message.
Due to the technical malfunction, an echo effect in the message was heard and preceded by several EAS tones.How is FEMA mitigating and addressing these issues?FEMA is very committed to mitigating these issues through scientific testing at the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Lab at the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC). Please visit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau for information and updates.When will the government conduct the next nationwide EAS Test? What other technologies will be integrated into the next test?In coordination with the FCC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other Federal partners, FEMA is committed to communicating the next test date and is currently in the planning and coordination phase. Future EAS testing will integrate other technologies for a more resilient and effective system.What other outreach and engagement activities can we expect before the next EAS Test?FEMA, in coordination with Federal partners and EAS participants, will continue to provide timely information updates through virtual roundtables, webinars, conferences, and other events.
Please sign up for our email subscription list to receive information on upcoming events, webinars, and other related activities.What is the purpose of the next EAS TEST?

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