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Zombies attack Michigan and Montana (sort of)

MARQUETTE, MI--   Kids watching Barney on WNMU-TV Monday got a shock when a voice came over the EAS system saying zombies were attacking the living.  

Just before 4 p.m. TV13 and several other stations in Michigan and Montana aired the audio or written crawl about the undead, thanks to overseas hackers. 

Eric Smith is Director of Broadcast and Audio-Visual Services at Northern Michigan University.  He says although the message was obviously fake, it could have been worse.

“The concern for us is that it could have been a more serious message that gave the public wrong information.”

Smith says NMU Public Safety officers and the Information Technology department launched an investigation to determine the source of the message.  They’ve found the hackers are from the United Kingdom, according to the IP address.  

They also found that the EAS online manual contained a default password used to first access the system.  EAS-broadcasting stations that hadn't changed the default password since installing it were targeted.

Smith notes today’s online world made the breach more likely.

“What we’re seeing is, when services move to the internet and there’s this high degree of interconnectivity, that the chance for this to happen increases, and that’s why we need to take extra precautions to make sure that the systems are locked and secure.”

Public TV13 is working with the Michigan Association of Broadcasters to implement message authentication measures in hopes of waylaying further hacking attempts. 

Smith says he expects the matter to be solved very quickly.  

A TV station in Great Falls, Montana was also hacked.

Nicole was born near Detroit but has lived in the U.P. most of her life. She graduated from Marquette Senior High School and attended Michigan State and Northern Michigan Universities, graduating from NMU in 1993 with a degree in English.