Zombie Apocalypse Prank

top-cell-phone-pranksOn February 11, 2013, the regularly scheduled programming on KRTV in Great Falls, Montana was interrupted by a hijacked EAS (Emergency Alert System) message.

“Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living.   Follow the messages onscreen that will be updated as information becomes available. Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nc60XPCXrh8

This youtube video has been viewed over 1 million times.

The same “zombie alert” happened in other cities as well: Marquette, Michigan and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

So how exactly did this happen?  The consensus opinion is that a hacker took advantage of a default password.  This was not the result of technological sophistication.  A decent analogy would be a burglar whimsically entering a house because the front door was left wide open.

Just FYI — it’s ironic how the fictitious alert coincided with a lie detector test.  We have become an increasingly “gotcha” society.  Is it reasonable to assume the “next big gotcha moment” could overshadow the endless parade of lie detector and paternity tests?

The EAS is part of the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System.  It is jointly coordinated by FEMA, the FCC and the National Weather Service.  The Emergency Alert System is generally not lacking in government oversight and compliance.  In other words, it’s tightly monitored.

Now let’s try a hypothetical experiment.  What if something non-zombie related occurred during the NFL Sunday televised slate of afternoon games?

*** FCC Flash Override ***
The FBI has announced an emergency evacuation of the following NFL stadiums:  Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.

How might the general public react to this scrolling message?  I doubt everyone would be dismissive and stay focused on the game.  I imagine they would immediately try to contact loved ones inside the stadium, or for that matter, ANY stadium by ANY means possible.  Keep in mind that a malicious individual could easily conceive of a vastly more threatening message.

Let’s take a trip back to October 18, 2006.  The Department of Homeland Security warned NFL officials in Miami, New York City, Atlanta, Seattle, Houston, Oakland and Cleveland about a possible threat involving the simultaneous use of dirty bombs.  The “intelligence” was obtained from multiple posts on an internet website.  Even though an FBI official was quoted as saying the “credibility of the threat was beyond ridiculous,” the U.S. government opted to err on the side of caution.

Of course the mainstream media immediately jumped all over the story.  This incident demonstrates the increasing blurring of the lines between fact and fiction, reality and hoax.  Whether or not the threat was deemed credible, stories of this magnitude tend to resonate in the public conscience.

Now you might make the following argument… well, the government’s surely on top of this matter.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  My personal research indicates a gross level of incompetence and purposeful neglect.

Consider the following: every NFL team has a cellular opt-in notification system that offers fans instantaneous information regarding scoring, coaching personnel, player injuries, etc.  Instead of a routine halftime scoring update, what if it’s a panic-inducing mass text message?

Once a message is delivered, there is no recourse.  Real-time information has real-world consequences.  There is no magical shield to prevent the “bad stuff” from getting through.  The NSA might engage in monitoring and eavesdropping, but as far as I know, there’s no split-second filtration system.  If it had one, the bomb threat problem as we know it, would not exist.

Oh, and just one final, trivial thought.  It need not be a technical hack or insider manipulation.  The viral blitzkrieg scenario involves a simple, blanket saturation of information.  Tweets, texting, bulk messaging platforms, alerts, social media, facebook, twitter, snapchat, emails, phone calls, robo-calls, etc.  It’s capable of being executed, and likely better suited for, a disgruntled teenager.

Not to worry, I’m sure the government has the problem covered.  Up until now, they’ve done a fine job in the arena of hoax prevention.  Though let’s be honest.  There are a few exceptions –  just some minor slip-ups:

AP Twitter account hacked, ‘explosions at White House’ crashes DOW

New Jersey Civil Emergency Alert: Take Shelter Now

Fortunately, the media has their back:

Gore Beats Bush

Gabbie Giffords (D-AZ) is Dead

Supreme Court Reverses Obamacare

Don’t worry.  I’m sure the NFL will provide an exceptional third line of defense.  After all, nothing bad ever happens on this planet.  Nobody important would ever engage in the age-old art of deception.

Bill Clinton – “I did not have sexual relations with that woman.

George W. Bush – “Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.

Barack Obama – “If you like your plan, you get to keep your plan.

Call me crazy, but holding 7.2 billion people to a higher standard than these three doesn’t seem particularly wise.  By the way, if you’re wondering whatever happened to the zombie apocalypse hacker… well, I wouldn’t worry about it.  I’m sure the federal government has the matter well in hand.  Worst case scenario: we could rely on the outstretched hands of zombies.  I’ve heard they take a very hands-on approach.