Dallas siren hacking indicates need for secure tech infrastructure

Dive Brief:

  • Dallas officials blame a computer hack for setting off 156 emergency sirens throughout the city late last week, according to The New York Times. The sirens reportedly went off more than a dozen times between midnight Friday and 1:20 a.m on Saturday, causing stress to the area's 911 system.
  • Officials have not yet indicated who was responsible for the hacking, but said it likely came from within the Dallas area. There is no indication that the hacking was done by a city employee.
  • The system remained shut down throughout the weekend, and the city is working on a way to protect the system from another hack.

Dive Insight:

Security experts have warned for years that as cities increasingly come online, more hacking will likely occur. In 2014, Cesar Cerrudo, a security researcher, demonstrated how he could hack into a traffic control system. A year later he published a white paper of even more ways a smart city could be compromised.

"It’s only a matter of time until attacks on city services and infrastructure happen. It could be at any moment. Actions must be taken now to make cities more secure and protect against cyber attacks," Cerrudo wrote.

Although Rocky Vaz, director of the city's Office of Emergency Management, told reporters that "this is a very rare event," that may not be the case for long. Following the Dallas hack, it can be assumed that similar incidents will continue to take place without more secure citywide tech infrastructure. The New York Times even reported last year that attacks on city infrastructure have risen from 200 in 2012 to nearly 300 in 2015, according to federal data. 

For now, city planners should see the Dallas hack as a warning for what could become a more common occurrence in the future. As tech continues to develop, so should awareness and training for how to deal with such instances. 

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Filed Under: Policy & Planning
Top image credit: Ryan McKnight (Industry Dive)