Monday, January 15, 2018

Hawaii Missile Alert

Amy B Wang (via Eric Umansky):

Around 8:05 a.m., the Hawaii emergency employee initiated the internal test, according to a timeline released by the state. From a drop-down menu on a computer program, he saw two options: “Test missile alert” and “Missile alert.” He was supposed to choose the former; as much of the world now knows, he chose the latter, an initiation of a real-life missile alert.


Around 8:07 a.m., an errant alert went out to scores of Hawaii residents and tourists on their cellphones: “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”


The false warning sparked a wave of panic as thousands of people, many assuming they had only minutes to live, scrambled to seek shelter and say their final goodbyes to loved ones. The situation was exacerbated by a 38-minute gap between the initial alert and a subsequent wireless alert stating the missile warning was a mistake.

John Gruber:

This is just terrible, terrible user interface design.


imagine if there was a real missile and he clicked Test missile alert without knowing it.

Bob Burrough:

The problem isn’t that someone fat-fingered the alert, or that the “test” and “real” alerts were near each other in a dropdown menu. The problem is that one person has ability to send an alert to millions.

Update (2018-01-16): Honolulu Civil Beat:

This is the screen that set off the ballistic missile alert on Saturday. The operator clicked the PACOM (CDW) State Only link. The drill link is the one that was supposed to be clicked.

Paul Kafasis:

The same selection screen contains both drill and real options, in extremely close proximity to one another. The naming of these options is inconsistent, and often opaque. Further, there’s no grouping to differentiate items. While there was a confirmation screen after this, it seems certain that it did not fully spell out what would occur. All of that led to literal panic in the streets.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2018-01-17): See also: Nick Heer.

Update (2018-01-22): See also: Jason Kottke.

Update (2018-01-23): Kevin Dayton:

Gov. David Ige told reporters today that part of the delay in notifying the public that the Jan. 13 ballistic missile alert was a false alarm was that he did not know his Twitter account password.

Update (2018-01-24): See also: xkcd.

Update (2018-01-30): Associated Press:

US regulators: Hawaii employee who sent false ballistic missile alert thought actual attack was imminent.

Brian Fung and Mark Burman (Hacker News):

The Hawaii employee who sent out a false alarm earlier this month warning of an incoming missile attack said they misheard a message played during a drill and believed a ballistic missile was actually heading for the state, according to a federal investigation.

This directly contradicts the explanations previously offered by Hawaii officials, who have said the Jan. 13 alert was sent because the employee hit the wrong button on a drop-down menu.

Megan Geuss:

A preliminary report released on Tuesday from the Federal Communications Commission details the events leading up to a false missile alert sent to mobile phones and television and radio broadcast stations in the state of Hawaii earlier this month. The report (PDF) suggests that the employee who sent the alert did not hear a recording notifying staff that an announcement regarding an incoming missile was simply a test. Instead, the employee apparently thought it was the real thing, according to the FCC.

Comments RSS · Twitter

Leave a Comment