"Prosperity always inflates the imprudent, and worldly peace weakens the vigor of the soul." - Peter Abelard

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Public Media Blog, Week 4: Zombies Plague PubTV Stations

An unexpected foe arose, well, from the dead this week for several public television stations across the country. For WNMU-TV in Marquette, Mich., KNME-TV in Albuquerque, N.M., and KRTV in Great Falls, Mont., it was an especially spooky Feb. 11.

In what MNMU-TV later determined was a hack coming from an undisclosed "overseas" source, the Emergency Alert System (EAS) of the various stations were compromised Monday afternoon, and viewers were loudly warned - via a robotic voice and an on-screen ticker - that the dead had risen and had started attacking the living.

According to TV News Check
, the EAS was compromised only because the default password on the stations' EAS had not been changed since installation.

“Quite simply, someone made an unauthorized access to the stations’ firewall and somebody logged into the system using a default username and password,” said Ed Czarnecki, senior director of strategy and regulatory affairs for Monroe Electronics, the main manufacturer of EAS systems across the country. “This is a simple matter of operational security best practices. You have to change your default password on any new device," said Czarnecki.

As the NY Daily News reports, KRTV had to personally reassure viewers that "there is no emergency" after the phony alert warned of an impending zombie apocalypse.

The situation may be humorous on a surface level, but after the uproar and turmoil caused by this security breach, one would hope public television stations across the country are making sure that their EAS systems are fully protected and functioning properly. One of public television's most important functions is to broadcast emergency signals and messages to areas under-served by regular cable and satellite TV. 

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