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. 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.


It is a nightmare glacier, tormented by the giant of our Solar System ever looming on its horizon. 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. 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.



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