EAS Zombie Alert Hits More Stations. Finger Pointing Over How it Happened Begins

By Kevin Eck 

KRTV, the CBS affiliate in Great Falls, MT, wasn’t the only local station to startle viewers with a hijacked Emergency Alert System warning of an imminent Zombie attack.

Viewers of ABC affiliate WBUP-WBKP and PBS affiliate WNMU in Marquette, MI and PBS affiliate KNME-KNDM in Albuquerque, NM, KENW in Portales, N.M. were also warned “Civil authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living.”

>Correction: TVSpy incorrectly identified KNME-KNDM as the PBS station in New Mexico that was hacked.  It was actually KENW in Portales, N.M.  We apologize for the incorrect information.

But who the hackers are and how they got in is still unknown, with stations blaming the company that makes the EAS equipment and the equipment maker pointing the finger right back at the stations.

Ed Czarnecki, senior director of strategy and regulatory affairs for Monroe Electronics, told TVNewsCheck hackers were most likely able to gain access to the system because stations didn’t change the default password on their Common Alert Protocol Emergency Alert System when they received it. Monroe Electronics manufactures and sells the devices in question.

“Quite simply, someone made an unauthorized access to the stations’ firewall and somebody logged into the system using a default username and password,” Czarnecki said. “This is a simple matter of operational security best practices. You have to change your default password on any new device.”

But Kenn Baynard, WBKP operations manager, told TVNewsCheck he thinks Monroe Electronics’ software may have a security flaw. “I spoke with an engineer in Montana using the same system, and it was hit the same exact way.”

WBUP-WBKP also posted a statement to its website saying the station is taking the attack seriously,

ABC 10/CW 5, owned and operated by Lake Superior Community Broadcasting, is working with the Federal Communications Commission, the Michigan Association of Broadcasters, local and state law enforcement and cyber security experts to investigate the attack.  Additionally, the manufacturer of the EAS equipment has been contacted to evaluate the attack.  The station will also coordinate efforts with WNMU-TV13.