Tornado Sirens? What’s Next?

As always, I try very hard to write about things that I think are important and pertinent in most people’s lives.  In my opinion, the following incident I’m going to discuss constitutes another major attack on Internet of Things (IoT) devices that are intended to help our society be safer.  The major incident that happened the night of April 8th in Dallas I believe has a much broader implied impact than just to the residents of that city.

18 minutes before midnight on April 8th, 156 tornado warning sirens went off for roughly an hour and a half.  The city had recently suffered some severe inclement weather including 3 tornadoes just days earlier so you can imagine residents’ initial reactions were mainly comprised of fear.

The culprit, however, was not bad weather, but rather a compromised network of sirens that, for some unknown reason, hackers decided to mess with.  While some find it harmless and humorous, it had adverse reactions to some city services and infrastructure.  According to an article from the Washing Post, “Not everyone cracked jokes. ‘We had people asking if we were being attacked because of what’s going on overseas,’ a city spokeswoman said the next day. And thousands of people flooded the Dallas 911 system (which has had its own technical problems), she said, leaving people with real emergencies waiting on the line for long minutes.”  This obviously shows how something that might have seemed like a harmless prank, can have a real impact on people.

Last year, Dallas suffered a different hack where attackers compromised highway information signs and posted mischievous messages.  I’m not sure this one caused as much pandemonium, but it still shows the vulnerability and accessibility to all of these connected devices we have in our society.

So why do I write about this?  It is a way that I keep you informed about what is going on but also doubles as a way to show the increasing dangers of connected devices that are not secure and unmonitored.

I love technology! I love what it has and can do for us as a society!  However, I constantly battle these malicious parties that seem to want to do nothing but wreak havoc and dismay by compromising technology.  Sometimes it’s simple mischief like the highway signs and then it escalates to tornado sirens.  Your personal IoT devices are at risk too, just by people who want to cause damage. See article.

My job is to try to stay ahead of these people, but it is increasingly difficult.  The best advice I have for you is to make sure that any devices you may have in your home or business are secure.  If you don’t know or don’t know how to find out, contact me, or at least some local security professional who can help you determine that.  Contact manufacturers and ask them about the security built into their devices and make sure you are doing everything they recommend to keep it safe.  Don’t be scared to use technology, but please make sure that whatever tech you do use, you secure it and yourself as best you can.

Stay connected but stay protected.

Austin Bynum
Chief Watchman
Cyber Watchtower

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