Hacker May Have Activated Illinois Warning Sirens

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According to The Chicago Tribune's Ryan Haggerty, seven warning sirens in Lemont, Ill., and three in Evanston, Ill., were recently activated, likely by a hacker.

"The weather was clear about 9:15 p.m. Sunday when one of the village’s seven sirens went off for about three minutes, [Lemont police chief Kevin] Shaughnessy said," Haggerty writes. "Only a few people in the village have the ability to activate the sirens, but none of them had done so, the chief said. About an hour later, all seven sirens began sounding, even though no village officials had activated them, Shaughnessy said. ... The sirens alternated between a sound warning of dangerous weather and a sound warning of a military attack, which Shaughnessy said he had never heard before."

"While officials from Evanston have failed to appoint a cause for the incident ... Shaughnessy believes that 'an unauthorized person' may be responsible, especially since the company that maintains the sirens has confirmed that none of those with access activated them and there aren’t any signs of mechanical malfunctions," writes Softpedia's Eduard Kovacs. "Shaughnessy explained that the sirens are activated via a radio signal that contains a unique code and someone may have copied it. To prevent future unauthorized access, the village has implemented additional security mechanisms."

"If the incidents are linked to an external hacker, the story would be evidence that civil defense and emergency response systems used in communities may be vulnerable to remote, hard-to-track attacks," writes Threatpost's Paul Roberts. "However, there is reason to be wary. Reports in November, 2011, about a Russia-based hack of a water pump used by the Curran Gardner Public Water District in Springfield, Illinois, turned out to be inaccurate."