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Fake 'Inbound Missile' Alert Sent To Every Cellphone in Hawaii (chicagotribune.com) 227

"Somebody sent out a false emergency alert to all cell phones in Hawaii saying, 'BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL'," writes Slashdot reader flopwich, adding "Somebody's had better days at work." The Associated Press reports: In a conciliatory news conference later in the day, Hawaii officials apologized for the mistake and vowed to ensure it will never happen again. Hawaii Emergency Management Agency Administrator Vern Miyagi said the error happened when someone hit the wrong button. "We made a mistake," said Miyagi. For nearly 40 minutes, it seemed like the world was about to end in Hawaii, an island paradise already jittery over the threat of nuclear-tipped missiles from North Korea...

On the H-3, a major highway north of Honolulu, vehicles sat empty after drivers left them to run to a nearby tunnel after the alert showed up, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Workers at a golf club huddled in a kitchen fearing the worst... The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted there was no threat about 10 minutes after the initial alert, but that didn't reach people who aren't on the social media platform. A revised alert informing of the "false alarm" didn't reach cellphones until 38 minutes later, according to the time stamp on images people shared on social media.

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Fake 'Inbound Missile' Alert Sent To Every Cellphone in Hawaii

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  • Brown Pants (Score:5, Funny)

    by jwhyche ( 6192 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @10:22PM (#55924363) Homepage

    Bring me my Brown Pants!!

  • by sehlat ( 180760 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @10:34PM (#55924409)
  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @10:44PM (#55924437)

    This message ostensibly was sent to every cell phone in Hawaii - didn't the guy who "pushed the wrong button" get the alert as well?

    And seriously - their first thought when sending out a correction was a Tweet? Don't they have the ability to send an "all clear" over the same channel they sent the "LOOK OUT YOU'RE ABOUT TO DIE!!!" message?

    • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @10:47PM (#55924459) Homepage

      Don't they have the ability to send an "all clear" over the same channel they sent the "LOOK OUT YOU'RE ABOUT TO DIE!!!" message?

      No, apparently they do not:

      "[Emergency alerts] aren't like text messages, where a sender can dash off a quick 'sorry my bad' if they mistype. IPAWS notices have a specific format, which must be composed formally and in advance. Audio files for broadcast notices must be recorded or generated and uploaded. Often, this has to be done by special software on special equipment."

      https://www.theatlantic.com/te... [theatlantic.com]

      • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @11:22PM (#55924595)

        Given the history of the Cold War, it's a little disturbing that they didn't have a "sorry, that was a false alarm" message already formally prepared.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          In the history of forever, whenever bureaucracies fuck up - 'blame the new guy'. Someone thought it was a good idea and did it, likely for political reasons, it went down way worse than they thought and... So what was the follow up marketing meant to about, obviously stoking war fears, real war fears. Who was playing, drive war fears as an FCC distraction, make more War Industrial Complex funding more palatable, attack property values in Honolulu (Pearl Harbour is the number one target in the US and make no

      • So to be clear they had a formally formatted and pre-prepared alert for "incoming missile", but don't have one for "crisis over"? That seems counter-intuitive.

        • People in a panic make mistakes. What would be the consequences if there really was an incoming missile and the "all clear" got sent out?

          • If they were pre-recorded then it is a mistake that can easily be reversed. Especially since the all-clear with no prior would be obviously incorrect.

            In any case it sounds like it is a difficult and convoluted process according to the GP to send one of these out. Having an area in a state of emergency simply because it takes time to record a message to say the emergency is over is not without consequence either.

      • So have a prerecorded / preformatted "our bad, nothing going on" message.

        Seriously, if you receive a missile warning over an official emergency broadcast channel that stresses "this is not a drill", would you trust an "all clear" message that's sent as a bloody tweet?
    • by Ayano ( 4882157 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @11:10PM (#55924545)
      Funny part is that there was a prompt for "are you sure?"
    • by c ( 8461 )

      This message ostensibly was sent to every cell phone in Hawaii - didn't the guy who "pushed the wrong button" get the alert as well?

      Off hand, I'd expect that the kind of place that monitors for ICBM's and issues that sort of warning probably doesn't allow cell phones or many other kinds of wireless device. In a lot of cases, things like Internet access might also be locked down.

      • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @12:00AM (#55924701)

        Although interesting to see what happened after "the wrong button was pressed", I would still love to know more about how such a terribly incorrect action could be triggered so easily with no outside verification. Like the governor doesn't even get one minute to verify and cancel a state-wide alert?

        I know time is of the essence in these things but it just seems crazy a shift change could trigger this, and in a way crazier that if that was possible, it never happened before. It seems pretty obvious something must have changed recently to allow this to happen, what was that?

        • It was probably a system test. Those need to be done to see how the thing actually works. Must be fascinating to collect and study data on people's responses.

          • I agree it was a system test, but they probably do those regularly - again I'm really wondering, how come this has not happened before? There is some kind of story here.

    • This message ostensibly was sent to every cell phone in Hawaii - didn't the guy who "pushed the wrong button" get the alert as well?

      And seriously - their first thought when sending out a correction was a Tweet? Don't they have the ability to send an "all clear" over the same channel they sent the "LOOK OUT YOU'RE ABOUT TO DIE!!!" message?

      What I am interested in is the "pushed the wrong button" business. Aren't they required to have one of these? http://www.12voltunlimited.com... [12voltunlimited.com] . I cannot imagine that if there was an actual button, it would have to have a switch guard. And if you have an alert that tells millions of people that they need to kiss their asses goodbye, a keyboard press to actuate is simply criminal.

      But I'll bet it was a keyboard press.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      The US gov/mil needed to see what the US population would do in that state and all over the USA, globally given a simple cellphone message for a set time.
      How would all diplomats in the USA react? Calls made, messages sent. Reactions in their embassy, communications used from their embassy out of the USA.
      Spies been watched by the FBI all over the USA react in any way at all?
      Do US survivalist have any national or global messaging system that was not yet under constant FBI/NSA/CIA watch?
      What did averag
      • by epine ( 68316 )

        something very interesting for 40 mins

        It's far from obvious to me that any of these (no doubt mostly pathetic) apocalyptic machinations pass the "very interesting" test.

        Nor is it obvious to me that the government of America (in the large) is just a grown up version of that strange kid in sixth grade who snuck a live iguana into the girl's change room—just to see what they would do.

        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Such systems have oversight and a clear command structure. Its not a one person GUI mouse click in city hall to send everyone a message like that.
          No one system user would be allowed to do a fat-finger error https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] with that kind of warning.
      • Saw a documentary about the border of North Korea with China. It's basically a river. From China you can see houses close to the river bank on the other side. Those are all high ranking officers of the North Korean Army. That way when the shit hits the fan, they're the first to flee to China.
        • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
          Be the same in the USA.
          Just watch for all the "other agency people" return to Idaho, Montana, Wyoming. Some parts of Oregon and Washington.
          The SUV's from the north east of the US arrive with people driving out to their summer cabins (bunkers).
          No influx of gov/mil/contractors from the intelligence services to their safe havens? Its all just a test until they drive in.
    • by dohzer ( 867770 )

      You've got to inform the guy with the massive button so he knows it's fake, so naturally you send a tweet.
      After that you can update all the plebs.

    • Agile project. This feature was not prioritized now. Maybe in Sprint 24.

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @10:47PM (#55924461)

    So, they have a button programmed to broadcast a missile attack, and the operator "hit it by mistake."

    So what other alert buttons are pre-programmed on the board . . . ?

    "GIANT TUNA DEVOURING BEACH VISITORS!"

    "AI POWERED SLINKY ARMY ATTACKING PASSENGER CARS!"

    And, of course, worst of all:

    "HAWAII DECLARED TO BE A SHITHOLE!"

  • by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @10:48PM (#55924469)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 13, 2018 @11:10PM (#55924547)

    It wasn't a "fake alert" it was a real alert from the real Agency empowered to issue them, that's way worse than a "fake" one.

    It was a mistake... That's not the same as being "fake", words matter. Editor's please take some English classes before posting any more.

    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @11:25PM (#55924603) Homepage Journal

      Agreed, it was a false alert, not a fake one.

    • English usage nowadays is worse than malapropisms. People are laughed at for using rarely used synonyms ("LOL, look at this Thesaurus guy").

      I hate every bit of Western culture that elevates so called "common" man. I want to live in a world where people need to have some kind of exam before getting access to the Internet, before that stupid Eternal September thing.

      I miss classes. Not classes at school. Classes in Marxist definition. I want to receive a formal acknowledgement for being a Ph.D. from plumbers a

      • dumbass that was flanking high school

        Are you talking about army tactics or Rugby Union?

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        English usage nowadays is worse than malapropisms. People are laughed at for using rarely used synonyms ("LOL, look at this Thesaurus guy").

        I hate every bit of Western culture that elevates so called "common" man. I want to live in a world where people need to have some kind of exam before getting access to the Internet, before that stupid Eternal September thing.

        I miss classes. Not classes at school. Classes in Marxist definition. I want to receive a formal acknowledgement for being a Ph.D. from plumbers and waiters. I want them to take of their stupid baseball hats when they see me while I respond with dismissive acknowledgment of their existence.

        I hate egalitarianism. I am not equal to you, dumbass that was flanking high school just few years ago.

        No sarcasm. I am tired living in a consumer society.

        I miss people who knew the difference between “of” and “off,” and who bothered to check their writing BEFORE posting remarks about how much fucking better they are than everyone else for allegedly having been awarded a “Piled higher and Deeper” degree.

        Having memorized by rote other people’s ideas doesn’t make you any “better,” than other people, you fucking snob, so on behalf of all the plumbers and waiters of the world, all of whom are more useful

    • Editor's please take some English classes

      Ooops

  • I was there... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobcardone ( 922176 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @11:11PM (#55924553)
    On the 24th floor of a Waikiki Beach condo balcony having coffee when the alert came on my cell. First reaction...WTF?? Second reaction... went straight to the roof. If it's gonna go down, I want to see it (if only for a few milliseconds).
    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      Good for you. If you're going to die, why suffer?
    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      This needs an app. Something that can broadcast to a website for the rest of the world for say an hour.
      Spare laptop with web cam, other spare cellphone that can pointed out a window after such an alert.
  • by surfcow ( 169572 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @11:22PM (#55924593) Homepage

    Hope I never read a message like that again.

    Didn't last long, but people were running red lights, etc.

    Friends were trying to decide which of their children to save.

  • So say I get similar alert in my home in CA. Don't have any basement, have one bathtub where children can fit. How do I maximize chances of long term survival? Stay in the house or in the car which at least has a partial metal envelope?

    • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday January 13, 2018 @11:46PM (#55924681)

      I grew up in the 60s and 70s. I remember some of the cold war films they showed us in school. According to them:

      Stay indoors. If you’re close enough to the blast, you’re probably dead anyway (that was mostly just implied). For many more people, though, fallout is going to be the main worry - so stay inside. And even if you still have running water... you probably shouldn’t drink it. Use what’s already in the back of the toilet and in your hot water heater.

      Of course nowadays, post 9/11, most reservoirs are supposedly covered - so I have no idea if that’s as important.

      In any case, water is probably going to be the main short term issue. If you have some pre-blast warning, filling up as many containers as possible with water is a good idea.

      • Iodine?

        Since most if not all Iodine isotopes have half life measured in days or hours, you don't need to block iodine update for a long time.

        You need to flood your body with iodine, so that any radioactive iodine that is ingested is excreted out again, instead of being accumulated in the thyroid.

    • The house has multiple walls, and a larger surface area to absorb the damage. It is also more likely to stay in place. Aside from a direct hit, or radiation fallout, or a chemical or biological weapon, you should survive inside the house.

      The automobile has little to maintain its position, just four tires. It wasn't designed to withstand extreme conditions. The windows can be shattered, and the frame can crumple on top of you. Few vehicles are strong enough to survive such extre conditions.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Brett Buck ( 811747 )

      Duck and cover, mocked endlessly, is a good way to react. If you are close enough either the radiation or the blast will kill you outright, but that's a pretty small area (particularly when its a maybe 20kt fission weapon from Korea, probably with an impact trigger). Otherwise, your biggest danger is from the flying debris. Ducking out of the way of flying glass and getting under some substantial cover to avoid falling roofs and ceilings will certainly raise your odds of getting through it.

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday January 14, 2018 @01:13AM (#55925005) Homepage Journal

      Baby boomer here. I remember when they taught this shit in school. Stay in your house, away from windows, keep curtains drawn. Have a battery radio and fill up containers with drinking water.

      There are multiple ways for a nuclear strike to kill you: ionizing radiation burn, pressure wave, thermal radiation burn, firestorm, and fallout. Each has its own characteristic radius within which you will probably die from it, but your chances are improved by being inside.

      You car would be a bad idea for many reasons unless it is in a garage. If your car is outside it will get quickly covered with very hot short-lived radioactive fallout. The gamma rays will cut through your car like it wasn't even there. You want physical distance to cut down your radiation dose until the hottest isotopes decay. The area in which the fallout will kill you quickly actually begins to contract after only an hour or so, even though the fallout is spreading. The area in which short exposures to fallout represents a health risk starts to drop after a day.

      Get inside, stay inside, listen on the radio for the all clear.

      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        Get inside, stay inside, listen on the radio for the all clear.

        Presuming your radio survives the EMP.

        The radio station, particularly AM station, stands a better chance of surviving because in many cases, the transmitter amplifiers are still closet-sized tube amplifiers. Of course the studio will probably get toasted, but it's easier to work around that than it is to work around a tens-of-kilowatts amplifier going up in smoke.

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          Depends on the altitude of the blast. EMP is primarily produced by the interaction of gamma rays with the upper atmosphere. A single large warhead detonated at an altitude calculated for maximum casualties would almost certainly NOT produce the kind of EMP effects lazy thriller writers have taught the public are an inevitable part of any nuclear attack.

          I know this because I've critiqued a number of science fiction manuscripts, and the "huge bomb creates the end of technological civilization" scenario is s

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Start with what you have and build on that.
      Store some food and water to start with.
      If the home is yours and you can get planning approval consider an approved Root cellar https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] design
      If you have land, got gov approval and can hire an expert consider some of the much smaller bunker designs. They are turn key, functional and don't cost millions of $.
      Stay in the house. Have water and food set aside.
      The time after will be like the movie The Road https://en.wikipedia.org/w [wikipedia.org]
    • You really want to do some preparation since your situation improves considerably with it. Neither a standard wood frame house nor car is going to be much protection if you are in them, and remember the radiation would come from above as well. You want to be in the shelter for 14 days if possible to allow the radiation levels to drop. If possible you want to get at least a meter of soil between you and the radiation - in all directions, including above you. The radiation will be the worst at the beginni

    • Get a new president. Best way to survive a nuclear blast is to not have one.

  • This may have been the result of minor incompetence, but there is major incompetence happening further west.

    We ignore North Korea and China at our peril. They will soon have capability to reach Hawaii. Then what will we do when they start attacking S. Korea? Nothing that is what. Cannot endanger Hawaii.

    And anti missile missiles are only partially effective. They would need to be near 100% to risk it.

    Sure, we could retaliate, but remember, N. Korea need not act rationally.

    • We ignore North Korea and China at our peril. They will soon have capability to reach Hawaii. Then what will we do when they start attacking S. Korea? Nothing that is what.Cannot endanger Hawaii.

      Bomb the launch sites? You know we have bombs the size of railroad cars that we can drop on their military installations - they impact a 1 mile radius area, as isis learned a little while ago... what's it called, the "Mother Of All Bombs"?

  • good (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hdyoung ( 5182939 )
    There should be more of this in the US. Lots more. In fact, we should reinstate bi-yearly air raid drills for schools and businesses. For everyone within 100 miles of a strategically important target. That would be 95% of the population I bet. Remember that the nukes are wayyyyyy more powerful nowadays? It needs to be made perfectly clear to the US population that if our great leader pops his top and starts a nuclear confrontation, people have a 10% chance of survival, and that's only IF they manage to ge
  • I can only hope that the real need for a use for this never actually arises, because if it does, the fact that this goofup happened is going to cause people to not take any real one as seriously, and people will die who might not have if they had heeded the warning.
    • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

      I don't know, people can wrap their heads around fucking up once. A second such incident would probably have the result you mentioned, though.

      • by mark-t ( 151149 )

        Honestly, I hope you're right...

        Although I hope even more that we never need to find out.

  • Feature phones like most flip-phones are not equipped with this protocol, so folks like me with a Samsung T-219 for example are blissfully unaware of all this silliness. At some point I gather the cell towers will require me to get a new device, but so far I can't find a new mobile telephone with real buttons, no web, and no camera; most confusing.
  • How about, just like when a company is testing the fire alarms in a building, you ANNOUNCE BEFOREHAND that a TEST will be happening that day. You can just as thoroughly test your system without it being a surprise.
  • . . . of Leeeeeerrooooyyyyyy Jeeeeeeeeennnnkkkiinnsssss!!!

    (grin)

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