February 20, 2013

Information Week Security quotes Jamie Barnett on Emergency Alert System hoax

2 min

Venable partner Jamie Barnett was quoted in the February 15, 2013 issue of Information Week Security on the recent Emergency Alert System (EAS) hoax warning about a zombie attack in Montana. While obviously a hoax, the incident revealed security flaws in the EAS system.

“In this particular attack, it was just bad hygiene: passwords that weren't reset,” said Admiral Barnett commenting on the cause of the attack. While noting the hack was “a simple one,” Admiral Barnett cautioned, “This was a prank. But if something was done to try and panic the public -- or even worse, to interrupt communications during an actual emergency -- that's pretty serious.” Commenting on the security issues facing EAS, Admiral Barnett said the emergency alert devices used in the system “were developed over the last few decades, and while they're part of a network, it was before packet-switched and Internet concepts were even prevalent in our society, so some of the connections to other networks are now, you could say, bolted on.”

Admiral Barnett also said he expects a strong government response to the attacks. “You can watch the Federal Communications Commission and FEMA to see what comes out,” he said. “I'm willing to bet that they'll have an investigation and report into this.” He also recommended that the alerting industry should rethink its security approach, saying, “They need to look at coming together and codifying some best practices to make sure that these types of things don't happen.”