DALLAS (CN) – Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings pledged Saturday to find and prosecute the hackers who caused all of the city’s 156 emergency sirens to blare for several hours in the middle of the night, causing alarm and annoyance.
City officials said the siren system was hacked into Friday night.
“For security reasons, we cannot discuss the details of how this was done, but we do believe that the hack came from the Dallas area,” spokeswoman Sana Syed said in a statement Saturday. “We have notified the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] for assistance in identifying the source of this hack. We are putting safeguards to ensure this type of hack does not happen again.”
Syed said all of the sirens were activated at 11:42 p.m. Friday and were not completely deactivated by city workers until 1:17 a.m.
Rocky Vaz, director of Dallas’ Office of Emergency Management, told reporters the sirens blared for 90 seconds at a time for at least 15 times.
“Talking to all the experts in the siren industry in the field, this is a very rare event,” he said.
Rawlings said the hack was “yet another serious example of the need for us to upgrade and better safeguard our city’s technology infrastructure,” alluding to recent issues with the city’s 911 system and lengthy call delays for users from certain cellular phone providers.
“It’s a costly proposition, which is why every dollar of taxpayer money must be spent with critical needs such as this in mind,” Rawlings said in a statement. “Making the necessary improvements is imperative for the safety of our citizens.”
Despite being told by city leaders not to dial 911 to inquire about the sirens, Dallas residents made more than 4,400 calls between 11:30 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. – a twofold increase in calls the 911 system typically handles on a Friday night, Syed said.
“We understand that people were concerned,” Syed told The Dallas Morning News. “We had people asking if we were being attacked because of what’s going on overseas.”
Dallas residents expressed confusion on social media at the sirens blaring during a clear night while others were concerned that they were blaring so soon after President Donald Trump’s missile strike on a Syrian airbase last week.
Syed said turning off the sirens proved difficult, requiring a shutdown of the entire system.
“Every time we thought we had turned it off, the sirens would sound again, because whoever was hacking us was continuously hacking us,” Syed told The New York Times.