Dallas went through a tornado scare after hackers compromised the emergency system and set off 156 sirens for approximately 90 minutes Friday night in what state officials named as one the largest known breaches of such a system, announced Reuters.
“At this point, we can tell you with a good deal of confidence that this was somebody outside of our system that got in there and activated our sirens,” city Emergency Management Director Rocky Vaz said. “This is a very, very rare event.”
The Federal Communications Commission and a team of engineers are investigating, but police aren’t yet involved. City officials are convinced the attacker is from the Dallas area.
“We can’t talk a whole lot about the hack itself, because obviously we don’t want this to happen again,” City spokeswoman Sana Syed said. “We cannot discuss the details of how this was done, but we do believe that the hack came from the Dallas area.”
The sirens’ radio system and repeaters had to be shut down manually on Saturday. The false alarm created panic among Dallas residents who, within minutes, flooded the 911 system with calls, with over 4,400 inquiries between 11:30 PM and 3 AM.
“If it’s hacking, it’s extremely concerning,” said Jennifer Staubach Gates, a city councilperson who serves on the Public Safety Committee. “If someone’s messing with our emergency system, we’ve got an issue. We need to get to the bottom of it—what kind of vulnerabilities do we have?”