Hackers took control of 156 emergency sirens at 11:40 p.m. on April 7, Friday, in Dallas, Texas.
The hacking set off the city's alarms that continually blared for roughly an hour and 40 minutes, causing residents in the area to panic and 911 to be flooded with numerous calls due to the possibility of an attack.
Hacking Of Dallas Emergency Sirens Show Security Problems
Sana Syed, a Dallas city spokeswoman, said that the residents thought the sirens went off because of a "bomb or something, a missile," pointing out that the recent airstrikes in Syria in response to the chemical attack in the Middle Eastern country may have had a hand in striking fear and prompting confusion.
City officials confirmed that it was indeed a case of hacking and that it happened locally, but because of security concerns, they withheld certain details of the incident.
"We do believe it came from the Dallas area because of the proximity to our signal you need to have in order to pull it off," Syed said.
Director of Dallas Emergency Management Rocky Vaz said that it wasn't easy to silence the sirens, and before the staff could turn off the whole system, it had to double-check whether or not there really was an emergency.
Syed explained that the sirens would blare over and over again each time the workers would switch them off, concluding that the hackers behind the attack were "continuously hacking" them.
Dallas City Mayor Mike Rawlings took things to Facebook to provide an update to the residents affected by the harsh sounds that rang late at night, more or less reassuring them that there are no dangerous weathers or other emergencies to be worried about.
"Last night's hack was an attack on our emergency notification system. We will work to identify and prosecute those responsible," he said.
Smart Cities To Give Hackers More Targets
As the adoption of the Internet of Things continues, which aims to turn common items into connected smart products, hackers will have more opportunities to carry out cyberattacks as more targets become available.
That said, this particular event is arguably a white-hat hack rather than an attack meant to disrupt the residents of the city of Dallas. In other words, it shows the potential security problems that may arise when the modern age paves way for smart cities to fully develop, giving a warning to those who have the power to implement preemptive measures for such instances.
Making the dangers of cybercrime — and in turn, the importance of cybersecurity — known to officials is no easy task, and this may have been a way for the hackers to make everyone aware of the possible hazards when due attention is not given to these factors.
The hackers may be considered successful if the breach were indeed done for this purpose, as evidenced by the Facebook post of Mayor Rawlings.
"This is yet another serious example of the need for us to upgrade and better safeguard our city's technology infrastructure," he said.