Walking dead in Montana? Hackers broadcast zombie alert on KRTV

Feb. 12, 2013 | 10:08 a.m.

This post has been corrected. Please see note below for details.

A Montana TV station was the victim Monday of a zombie hoax.  One must ask: Was it a crazed “Walking Dead” fan?

The Great Falls, Mont., station KRTV has caught the attention of media nationwide after the emergency alert warning of a zombie attack.

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The “Steve Wilkos” show was exploring the subject “Teen Cheaters Take Lie Detectors” when the familiar buzzing sounds alerted viewers of an important announcement: “Authorities in your area have reported that the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living. … Do not attempt to approach or apprehend these bodies as they are considered extremely dangerous.”

It was a hoax.  The Montana Television Network reportedly said hackers broke into the Emergency Alert System of KRTV and its CW station.  The broadcast went out in several Montana counties.

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Calls by the Los Angeles Times to  KRTV were not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

[Updated, 10:31 a.m. Feb. 12:  Sgt. Bryan Slavik said the zombie alert did not create panic and chaos in the streets of Great Falls.

Slavik, public information officer with the Great Falls Police Department, said the incident gave most a chuckle. There were some calls to the department, he said, but they were along the lines of, “If a zombie walks on my front lawn, can I shoot him?”

There has been no criminal complaint filed by KRTV, he said, and the only worry among authorities in Great Falls is that whoever did the hacking might do it again and this time in a more serious vein, “something people would take seriously.”  They would not like to see that happen.]

On the KRTV Facebook page, users were commenting on the media coverage of the story: “The Zombie alert has made it to CNN!” “Fox News just reported on the hacking of the EAS. KRTV just went national!”

One user noted that the French website Zombies World had even picked up the story: “KRTV: Alerte aux zombies!”

Could Monday’s hoax have been inspired by the return Sunday night of “The Walking Dead”?  As the Los Angeles Times reported Monday, the AMC show scored its highest ratings ever with its midseason debut.

[For the record, 1:25 p.m. Feb. 12: An earlier version of this post referred to the “Steve Wilkes” show.  The correct spelling is Wilkos.]

– Amy Hubbard

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