Not so silent night: Dallas emergency siren system hacked

Officials believe that hackers in the Dallas area compromised the city's emergency siren system overnight forcing it to be shut down

Sana Syed, the managing director of information for the city of Dallas, praised emergency management workers for their handling of the chaotic event at a press conference on Saturday. The rush of inquiries caused a backlog, forcing some callers to wait up to six minutes to speak with emergency personnel.

In fact, according to the Dallas Emergency Dispatch, approximately 4,400 calls were registered between 11:42 pm and 1:17 am. "So, within an hour and a half, about, we turned off the entire system".

In response to the deluge of inquiries, the city's Federal Bureau of Investigation office posted a tweet informing residents there was "no active emergency". Officials from the city's emergency management office have confirmed that there was no emergency, and that the system was breached by hackers. "We are putting in safeguards to ensure this type of hack does not happen again". It would appear that one or more individuals tapped into the network's grid and managed to inject a repeat command, meaning that the sirens were stuck on a loop, transmitting the emergency tornado signal over and over again.

Vaz cited industry experts as saying the hack was among the largest ever to affect emergency sirens, with most breaches triggering one or two. Officials don't know who was responsible for the hacking, but Vaz said "with a good deal of confidence that this was someone outside our system" and in the Dallas area. The city has asked the Federal Communications Commission to help with the hard task of identifying a culprit.

The sirens went through 15 cycles of a 90-second activation before they were shut down, he said.

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called the hack "an attack on our emergency notification system. We will work to identify and prosecute". "Making the necessary improvements is imperative for the safety of our citizens".

Officials hope to have the alert system back up and running by Sunday night or Monday afternoon.