Hackers cause Genesee County's civil defense and tornado sirens to activate

Published: Aug. 1, 2018 at 12:37 PM EDT
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(8/1/2018) - Two activations of Genesee County's civil defense and tornado siren system on Tuesday were caused by hackers.

Genesee County 911 Deputy Director Tim Jones confirmed on Wednesday that hackers infiltrated the system around 6:25 p.m. and 11:25 p.m., causing sirens to activate in different areas of the county.

The sirens sounded around the area of Mott Community College in Flint at 6:25 p.m. They activated in Burton, Flint, Flint Township, Gaines Township and Mundy Township at 11:25 p.m.

There was no severe weather in or near Genesee County on either occasion on Tuesday. Although, tornado warnings were active south of Detroit during the later activation.

The Genesee County 911 Communications Center controls all 113 warning sirens in the county. Jones says the county is working with multiple agencies including federal authorities to better understand how the system was hacked.

"We are investigating all possibilities to resolve the problem and to maintain the safety and security of our community," the Genesee County Dispatch Authority said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. "We are aggressively working at finding the cause of the activations. We are very concerned given the time of year about the public's safety."

The warning sirens have activated at least five times this spring and summer when no severe weather or other hazards were present.

In late June, sirens sounded in Burton and Swartz Creek, but dispatch officials said hacking had been ruled out in that case. Sirens started in Swartz Creek and the process of turning them off there caused Burton's to activate.

Officials at the Genesee County 911 Communications Center are expected to further discuss the false activations later Wednesday.

Genesee County 911 Director Spring Tremaine has said the county is in the process of upgrading its entire warning siren system that will help dispatchers better pinpoint when there is a problem like what happened Saturday.

"It's going to be two-way. So when we send out a signal we can actually tell which sirens are responding, which ones are working and we can tell if there's a problem with it," Tremaine said.

Crime Stoppers is offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to whoever is responsible for activating the sirens.

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