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Fire Department: Evanston's Sirens May Have Been Hacked

Sirens went off for about two to three minutes in Evanston last Saturday. Officials say there could be any number of causes.

Evanston's fire department says the city's emergency warning system may have been hacked, after sirens sounded last Saturday evening without being set off.

Around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, sirens at Evanston Fire Station 4 and 5, as well as at , sounded one cycle, lasting two to three minutes, according to Fire Division Chief Geoffrey Block. Evanston's 911 Center, the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and the Federal Communications Comission are all investigating the unauthorized activation.

"We thought maybe it was a glitch on our end," Block said on Wednesday. But since the department found out that sirens went off without city activiation in Lemont, too, he said other causes are under investigation.   

"It wasn't set off by anybody in the city," he explained. "We definitely believe it was hacked."

between about 9:15 and 11 p.m. on Sunday in the far southwest suburb, and Lemont Police Chief Kevin Shaughnessy also .

"After meeting with our contractor concerning what happened to Lemont’s system, there is a strong possibility that we too were hacked and an unauthorized signal was sent, setting off our system," he said.

Michael Masters, executive director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said the agency was aware of both unauthorized activations.

"There are a number of potential factors that could have caused it," he said. "They are currently under investigation by a variety of entities."

Masters declined to speculate what, in particular, might have caused Evanston's sirens to go off.

"Cook County will continue to work with our partners to keep them informed of developments in intelligence that we receive," he said. 

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