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Hackers send zombie emergency alert through KSL station, others

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SALT LAKE CITY — The FCC is investigating after multiple TV stations, including a KSL station, were hacked Tuesday to display an emergency alert warning of an impending zombie attack.

Hackers briefly broke into the Emergency Alert System at stations throughout the country on Monday evening, interrupting local television programming to send the false alert.

The EAS is the national system meant for use by the president and others to communicate emergency information to the public quickly and securely.

At least five TV stations were hacked, including KSL's HD Radio 2 — the Mormon Channel.

Two stations in Michigan — WNMU and WBUP — were hit, as well as KRTV and the CW in Montana.

The traditional, well-known tone of the EAS preceded the report, which warned, "Civilian authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves, and attacking the living."

Full text of false emergency alert:
"Civilian authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves, and attacking the living.

"Follow the messages onscreen that will be updated as information becomes available. Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies, as they are considered extremely dangerous."

"This warning applies to all areas receiving this broadcast. This station will now cease transmission, so please use your battery powered radio to hear updates."

The false alarm instructed viewers to follow the instructions on their screen — they were told not to approach the zombies — and said the station would cease broadcasting following the warning.

KRTV released an updated statement Tuesday saying KRTV and the CW had been hacked.

"Someone apparently hacked into the Emergency Alert System and announced on KRTV and the CW that there was an emergency in several Montana counties," it said. "This message did not originate from KRTV, and there is no emergency."

"Our engineers are investigating to determine what happened and if it affected other media outlets."

WBUP station manager and news director Cynthia Thompson confirmed the hack and said the station is working to close any gaps in the security system that may have allowed the hack to occur.

"We've made contact with state cyber crime authorities who will help us investigate this incident," she said in a statement on WBUP's website. "Again, our apologies to those of you who were scared, shocked or confused."

We've made contact with state cyber crime authorities who will help us investigate this incident.

–Cynthia Thompson, WBUP

The Northern Michigan University Public Safety Department, the Michigan State Police and the Michigan Association of Broadcasters confirmed Tuesday to the origin of the hacking was overseas.

Joe Dougherty of the Utah Department of Public safety said the event was troubling for the department because the EAS is a critical tool in helping to keep Utahns safe.

"(It is used) to warn Utahns of tornadoes, or fires, or floods or anything that would be a significant impact to the state," he said.

John Dehnel, KSL's EAS administrator, said KSL has improved security on the system so such an incident will not occur again. He said the hackers may have thought they were being funny, but such a prank ties up a lot of resources.

"You waste a lot of people's time, and people get detuned to it," John Dehnel said. "That's something that can damage the integrity of the system."

Contributing: Mike Anderson

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