Authorities investigating disruptions of police radios, networks during protests: report
Authorities are reportedly probing interference with police radio networks and websites that occurred during protests over the death of George Floyd that have swept the nation.
Such disruption efforts have occurred in Minnesota, Illinois and Texas, and while they are not considered technically difficult, federal intelligence agencies said law enforcement should be on their guard for further attempts, The Associated Press reported. Officials have not identified any details of disruptions or identified anyone responsible, according to the AP.
During a May 31 Dallas protest, “unknown actors” were able to disrupt the police department’s unencrypted radio frequency with music, the AP reported, citing a June 1 Department of Homeland Security assessment.
Numerous police departments have switched to encrypted communications, citing the need to keep criminals from listening in to police radio channels through phone apps, but local journalists have criticized this move for potentially concealing public safety information from the public.
“The biggest concern they have right now is the safety of their communities, the safety of their officers,” Morgan Wright, chief security adviser for the cybersecurity company SentinelOne, told the AP. “But if you look at what underpins everything we use to communicate, collaborate and operate, it’s all technology.”
In the immediate aftermath of the death of George Floyd on May 25, when the initial protests were concentrated in Minneapolis, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) claimed state networks had been subjected to “a very sophisticated denial of service attack,” but cybersecurity experts have said such attacks can be achieved without a high level of skill, and state Chief Information Officer Tarek Tomes later said there had been no disruption to state services.
The warnings come as Twitter users have attributed outages on city government websites to the loose hacker collective Anonymous, claiming interruptions in the official website of Austin, Texas, were in retaliation for police shooting protester Justin Howell in the head with a beanbag at a May 31 protest. Anyone can claim affiliation with the collective, making it difficult to determine its actual responsibility for the attacks.