Britain’s new emergency alert system 'can be hacked with £1,000 of equipment and YouTube tutorial'

22 April 2023, 08:09 | Updated: 23 April 2023, 15:18

The emergency alert system 'has flaws that are yet to be addressed'
The emergency alert system 'has flaws that are yet to be addressed'. Picture: UK GOV
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

Britain's new emergency alert system - due to go off on Sunday at 3pm - can be hacked with £1,000 worth of equipment and an online tutorial, it has been suggested.

There are fears it would only take pranksters using basic technology to fake terror attack alerts to phones within a kilometre radius.

It may be possible to break into the system, which is set to be sent via mobile phone operators for the first time on Sunday.

A YouTube video created by US academics highlights system's flaws, which have reportedly not been fixed since being pointed out several years ago, The Telegraph reports.

Read More: Sound the alarm: Brits across the country react as emergency alert goes off on millions of phones earlier than planned

The alert will go off on Sunday at 3pm
The alert will go off on Sunday at 3pm. Picture: UK GOV

An emergency alert will be sent to nearly every smartphone in the UK for the first time at 3pm on April 23.

A siren will go off and phones will vibrate for around 10 seconds in the first test of the UK's new emergency alert system.

The text will tell phone users that "in a real emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe".

Read More: Triggered by the UK's Emergency Alert system? Pull yourself together - you'll change your mind if it saves a relative

Read More: Mobile alerts system could eventually be used for terror and nuclear threats

In a research paper, academics from the University of Colorado Boulder warned "fake alerts in crowded cities or stadiums could potentially result in cascades of panic".

"We find that with only four malicious portable base stations of a single watt of transmit power each, almost all of a 50,000-seat stadium can be attacked with a 90 per cent success rate," they said.

"This attack can be done with commercially available software-defined radios costing less than $1,000, and a few modifications to open-source software."

A government spokesperson said: “Our emergency alerts system is extremely secure, having been developed in conjunction with government cyber experts.

"The system will only ever be used in a very limited number of circumstances where there is a risk to life and all alerts will be published on gov.uk at the same time they are broadcast."

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