Talk about a nuclear grade screw-up.
The state employee who sent all Hawaii into a panic with a false missile alert earlier this month did so because he believed there was an actual strike on its way, the Associated Press reports.
The Federal Communications Commission said Tuesday that Hawaii had been testing alert capabilities, causing the employee to mistake a drill for a real attack.
James Wiley, a cybersecurity and communications reliability staffer at the FCC, explained that there were no safeguards requiring employees check with a colleague or supervisor in order to send an alert.
“There were no procedures in place to prevent a single person from mistakenly sending a missile alert,” Wiley said. The false alarm was sent out to cell phones, TVs, and radio stations throughout the state.
Another issue was that the software in use at Hawaii’s emergency agency used the same prompts for real alerts and for tests. A user could click through quickly without paying attention to the text of the message being transmitted.
Upon hearing a recorded message that featured the words “this is not a drill,” the employee thought a real threat was imminent. He reportedly did not hear the phrase “exercise, exercise, exercise,” indicating the recording was indeed a drill.
The employee, whose identity has thus far been withheld, has refused to cooperate with federal investigators. Regulators obtained information from a written information he provided to state officials.
According to the Associated Press, the employee still works at the Emergency Management Agency, but has reassigned to another job. He hasn’t returned to work since the Jan. 13 incident, putting him in danger of being fired.
The public alarm came at a time when fears of a nuclear attack are high due to North Korea’s nuclear missile development. It took Hawaii 38 minutes to send an alert correcting the missile alert because the state did not have a standardized system for relaying retractions.