WGXC-90.7 FM

Radio News: Pirates hijack radio signals with a 'Furcast'

Apr 11, 2016 11:29 pm
Radio Insight reports that two radio stations in the western United States had their signals taken over by illegal transmissions last week, with the pirates forcing a sexually explicit podcast about love between folks dressed as furry characters on the FM signals. KIFT, a Top 40 radio station in Breckenridge, Colorado, and KXAX, a Texas country music station, aired the Furcast podcast, with the pirates hacking into the Studio Transmitter Links to the stations. Both stations used a "Barix Box" Studio Transmitter Link, which the pirates took over. The Alabama Broadcasters Association said in an Advisory. "In at least two cases six-character passwords were cracked." KIFT released this statement:

"In regards to our station KIFT this morning, what we know at this time is that a Studio Transmitter Link for our station, which is Internet-enabled, was hacked earlier today. For approximately an hour and a half, programming from a podcast unrelated to our normal programming was broadcast on a booster of KIFT. The main signal of KIFT was not affected, but the booster station was broadcasting the podcast programming, some of which was inappropriate for broadcast use. Our station was unable to regain control over the STL until the station engineer actually traveled to the remote transmitter site, and reprogrammed the system from that location. We use industry standard closed systems for our STL and are unsure how this was able to happen. We are working with equipment manufacturers and auditing the security of our own systems to avoid any repeats of this incident. Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where hacking is becoming and increasingly bigger problem. We would urge other broadcast outlets to be aware of the possibilities and to take precautions. We sincerely apologize for to our listeners for the content of the broadcast and are doing everything possible to ensure that is doesn’t happen again."

Barix Boxes are commonly used by low-power FM stations to send their audio over the internet from studio to transmitter locations (WGXC uses a similar Comrex Box between Hudson and Acra studios). Barix, the manufacturer of the hacked Studio Transmitter Link gear, released this statement:

"Barix has been made aware of reported incidents where Barix devices have been hijacked to broadcast unauthorized content. We deplore these attacks. Barix would like to emphasize that its devices are secure for Broadcast use when set up correctly and protected with a strong password. With several hundreds of thousands of Barix devices in operation worldwide, these unfortunate security breaches are an extreme rarity. The problem rests with securing things on the Internet in general. By checking one of the named listing sites, significant numbers of Internet-connected devices of all types and brands can be found. These devices are easily accessible if not properly protected. Barix streaming devices support the highest security levels with 24-character password protection. However, attacks are made easier if this password is not used and changed regularly."

There have been no claims of responsibility for the pirate transmissions.
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