FEMA’s Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) program is still in its infancy but unfortunately it is already running into trouble. FEMA has issued a Request for Information (RFI) looking for “best methods for providing a highly reliable and highly available application and data center services” to support IPAWS in the future.
IPAWS was used in many high-profile situations in 2013, but it has become apparent that FEMA does not have the necessary technology infrastructure to continue supporting the system. The RFI states the desire of FEMA to explore “mature commercial software solutions” and “commercial hosting solutions” for the system.
According to FEMA:
“Although IPAWS is only one of many applications that reside within the “FEMA Enterprise” IT infrastructure, IPAWS has some of the most stringent requirements for high availability and reliability. For that reason, IPAWS was called out specifically in the RFI and will be engaged in the review process, seeking alternative hosting solutions that can provide high reliability and availability while also increasing resilience and long term cost efficiencies.”
It is important to note that IPAWS is still fully functional and is an extremely valuable tool when used in connection with the Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system. FEMA has no plans to replace or outsource the IPAWS system.
If you are still unsure what IPAWS is and how it works, please take a look at our helpful whitepaper on the subject here.
A recent Amber Alert issued in California was the first time the new Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) system had been used statewide. Officials used the WEA system to alert tens of thousands of citizens through their cellphones.
A late-night Amber Alert text message for a high-profile abduction case in Southern California produced considerable confusion and anger due to the unusual and unexpected nature of the sound and appearance of the message. Not only were recipients upset by the late night alert but also frustrated with how little useful information it provided.
This served as a valuable lesson to officials who are still learning how to use the new mass notification channels being made available. As a result of the California incident, an official of the National Center for Exploited and Missing children is asking permission from regulatory authorities to allow Amber Alert senders to incorporate more detail in the texts they issue, including links to other sources of information.
The greatest risk moving forward may be an overuse of the system. If people begin opting out of the alerts or ignoring them, then the new alerting technology will have lost much of its effectiveness.
So there you are, relaxing in front of the television when that familiar Emergency Alert System sound starts blaring over the show you are watching. You think maybe it’s a regular system test or perhaps a severe weather warning, but no… it’s a Zombie Attack Alert!
Unfortunately this is a true story. A zombie attack alert was issued on a handful of U.S. TV stations last month when hackers gained access to the EAS equipment. The most shocking part of this story is not the concerned calls from citizens who wanted to know if the zombie attack was real, it is the fact that the T.V. stations never changed the default password for their EAS equipment.
Thankfully as a result of this incident, Broadcasters have received valuable security education and EAS equipment makers are looking for methods beyond password protection to ensure that this does not happen again.
You can view footage of the zombie alert here:
Read the full article: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/14/net-us-usa-zombie-hacking-idUSBRE91D07Z20130214
Meanwhile in Canada…
The House of Commons praised the U.S. Centers for Disease Control on their proactive approach to zombie apocalypse protection. Winnipeg Member of Parliament Pat Martin introduced the issue, probing Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird about the ongoing preparations, reminding him that “zombies don’t recognize borders” and an invasion in the U.S. could lead to a “continent-wide pandemic.”