In the wake of Friday’s municipal emergency siren system hacking incident in Dallas, American Signal Corporation (ASC) is reminding the mass notification industry of the critical importance of cyber security.
The hacking took place just before midnight Friday, affecting emergency alerting capabilities and inconveniencing millions of residents within the city.
(City officials confirmed an apparent hacking triggered emergency sirens to sound across the Dallas area. Courtesy of USA TODAY and YouTube)
The 156 sirens targeted—located throughout the city—are responsible for alerting citizens in Dallas of impending inclement weather.
False alarms were triggered at regular intervals beginning at 11:42pm Friday evening and ending at 1:17am Saturday morning, when city officials were forced to deactivate the entire system. 911 and other emergency dispatch services were not affected.
The attack showcases a growing concern for emergency alert system designers and operators.
Security vulnerabilities in public broadcast and alerting systems create the potential for false alarms, unmonitored downtime and a general loss of reliability, affecting the entirety of the populations they reach.
“A push for more robust and reliable security measures within mass notification systems is made real by the malicious attack in Dallas,” said Richard Roe, President of American Signal Corporation.
“The potential for collateral damage resulting from emergency systems hacking is a grave concern at the forefront of this industry.”
ASC’s own control system, CompuLert™ NEXGen, is designed specifically with cyber security in mind, providing protection from external hacking at numerous layers of operation.
Sensitive data for the application is also secured to protect against inappropriate user input. All access to administration features is password protected and requires admin authentication, and all passwords are encrypted to further protect from malicious access.
The NEXGen network uses secure SSL connections to prevent snooping or Man-In-The-Middle attacks.
Messages exchanged between the server and clients are also encrypted at application level using the symmetric Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). NEXGen protocol messages are even capable of being encrypted with a customer-specific key.
“Where cloud computation is becoming a real concern for intrusion into closed systems, NEXGen is capable of working with entirely isolated network resources, with no dependence on cloud resources or internet access, aside from an optional NOAA feed,” said Roe.
(Learn about the changes and benefits of CompuLert™ NEXGen. Courtesy of ASC, John Coultas and YouTube)
“There’s a distinct emphasis on top-down security that’s imbued into the framework of our entire system. We recognize the security needs of emergency alert systems and are leading by example when it comes to addressing them.”
American Signal Corporation (ASC) is a leading designer and manufacturer of mass notification solutions for a wide variety of applications worldwide, combining advanced engineering, innovative software and state-of-the-art equipment with an extraordinary record of longevity and expertise in the field.