back to article Hawaiian fake nukes alert caused by fat-fingered fumble of garbage GUI

Bad user interface design has been blamed for Hawaii experiencing a brief spate of nuclear panic over the weekend. In case you missed the news, anyone with a smartphone in the island State on Saturday morning received an emergency message stating “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT …

  1. Schultz
    Facepalm

    Confirmation checkbox needed

    Make sure the user will think about it:

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Do you really want to send this message?

    Cancel message: Cancel / Yes

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    1. I'm Dugly

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      Maybe better:

      Send this message / Cancel this message

      Rather than "Yes, cancel this message"

      1. frank ly Silver badge

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        According to a report in The Independent, there was a confirmation stage and the operator did press 'yes'. What it needs is a big, red, flashing illuminated sign at the other end of the room with a big, red, flashing confirmation button to be pressed. I suppose that would be too expensive.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

          Would it have killed them to have a second person sign off on the 'go' command? They way they set it up, it was only a matter of time before a disgruntled worker triggered it anyway.

          1. bazza Silver badge

            Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

            Would it have killed them to have a second person sign off on the 'go' command? They way they set it up, it was only a matter of time before a disgruntled worker triggered it anyway.

            Trouble is that you know for certain that when you actually really, really need that second person (ie a real missile is really on the way), they'll have gone to the kharzi for a few minutes easement. And by the time they've done experiencing hell on earth, it'll be too late and it'll arrive for the rest of us in the shape of a rather larger mushroom cloud.

            1. Lee D Silver badge

              Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

              But... like the infamous "four minute warning", it's 100% completely useless anyway.

              By the time that alert was cancelled, any missile would have hit and done whatever damage it couldand basically no-one would have had a chance to do anything about it. Hell, that's assuming they could even get the alert out in time, let alone people actually receiving it, reading it and running immediately for shelter (where?).

              A second person isn't exactly difficult to come by if you're working on a missile alert system. I presume that second person's function of late has been to slap the first person who fat-fingered it..

            2. EarthDog

              Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

              I've seen video of nuclear launch drills. The number of steps they go through to open the safe with the codes in them, read them, verify the messages, etc. to launch probably wasn't much less than someone running down the hall and pounding on the door yelling, "We need you n the control room right now!". Or you could just have 3 people available with the proper clearance and ensure at least 2 of them are on duty at all times.

              1. JimboSmith Silver badge

                Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

                I've seen video of nuclear launch drills.

                Not only that but the launch requires another crew in a separate launch control centre to do the same so that one crew can't go rogue and start a conflict.

        2. Martin an gof Silver badge

          Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

          What it needs is

          What it needs is for the confirmation dialogue for the real message to look significantly different to the one for the test message, and preferably have the "cancel / confirm" boxes in different relative locations. That way even a half-asleep operator doing the weekly test run would sit up and say, "uh, what? Who changed the... oh. Oops".

          Or ditch the drop-down dialogue with the two options next to each other?

          Or have a special "test mode" in the software that must be engaged every time a test is run, in much the same way we must put our fire alarm in "test mode" before running a test in order to avoid calling the fire brigade?

          M.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

            What's really needed is TWO drop down boxes, separated by a good amount.

            One labelled "TEST MESSAGES"

            The other labelled "THE REAL THING"

            Pure ass-hattery, mixing the test messages in with the real ones in a single drop down.

            // doesn't anyone do good UI design any more?

            // [looks at Windows 10 screen]

            // ...never mind...

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

              Or how about:

              Test - Missile Test- Nothing to worry about.

              Real - Missile Alert, phone your wife and kids to say I love you and goodbye.

            2. Evil Auditor Silver badge

              Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

              But, but, but... I want to test "THE REAL THING"! And not only the TEST.

              Anyway... you answered your question already though. It seemeth that nowadays UIs are sent to the unusability lab and only leave once they scored top. Which imbeciles thought it a good idea to apply mediocre fondleslap UIs everywhere else too?!

      2. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        The problem is that you get asked so many "are you sure?" for trivial actions so many times a day that people are conditioned to just hit the "ok" button. The best way of actually forcing you to read a message that i've ever seen was when deleting a partion many, many years ago.

        It popped a box saying "Do you really want to do this? If so, enter this 4 digit randomly generated number ($number) in the box below and press "ok"

        This completely ruled out the "hit the OK" reflex and made very sure that you'd read the message and personally made me think a couple of times before hitting the button after i'd stuck the code in.

      3. joea

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        Maybe even more betterer:

        Send this TEST message / Cancel this TEST message

        1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

          Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

          This is where AI comes into its own.

          When the computer determines the user is about to make a monumentally stupid decision, the prompt should be:

          "Shall I hold your beer for you? Yes/No"

      4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        "Maybe better: ..."

        Er, whoosh, I think.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        > Maybe better: Send this message / Cancel this message Rather than "Yes, cancel this message"

        Nah, go for the cookie acceptance banner:

        "Do you accept cookies? YES"

      6. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Here we go again

        With another XKCD for the occasion: https://xkcd.com/970/

      7. Flywheel Silver badge

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        Maybe better:

        Do you want to send this message?

        "NO - DO NOT send this message"

        "Yes, SEND this message"

      8. JeffUK

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        Send what message? If they think they clicked 'Test Message' then they're going to click yes on the confirmation too.

        How about confirmation boxes that provide useful information like "Send message to 4,000,000 recipients?"

    2. notowenwilson

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      How about:

      "to send this message, please type the first 20 digits of pi"

      1. Bluto Nash

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        We have a similar system in place at my site, whereby a notification is sent to all emergency response personnel. It prompts "Type 'EMERGENCY' to confirm" before it sends the message. Is it THAT HARD? No, it's not. Simply a case of a bad GUI rising up to get a clean chomp at a poor scapegoats arse.

      2. A.A.Hamilton

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        With the certain result that, when there the threat is real, somebody suffering a panic attack will type "The first 20 digits of pi" and then be completely frozen while trying to understand why the message was not sent.

    3. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      Sometimes it's worth skipping the confirmation checks, which is why dangerous machinery has a big red mushroom headed 'stop' button and a smaller recessed green start button under a flip cover with a key.

      I don't have any more facts that the rest of you but someone during the design phase may have decided that saving seconds on the alert during a real attack was worth the risk of a false alarm, given that a real attack would have people panicking and mis-keying like crazy.

    4. Florida1920 Silver badge

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      To send this message, click on all the photos containing street signs.

      1. Sceptic Tank
        Mushroom

        @ Florida1920 Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        That stuff is enough to make me reach critical mass. I never know if the pole that the street sign stands on is considered part of the sign. The amount of clicking involved suggests not.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @ Florida1920 Confirmation checkbox needed

          Sceptic Tank,

          Usually not, but often a small part of the Sign/'item' is overlapping the next box and this is what catches me out as sometimes it counts and sometimes not !!!

        2. To Mars in Man Bras!
          Joke

          Re: @ Florida1920 Confirmation checkbox needed

          Don't worry. reCRAPTCHA is much more straightforward:

          https://stiobhart.net/2018-01-14-recraptcha/

      2. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Mushroom

        To send this message,

        click on all the photos containing nuclear tests

      3. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        WANTED: Team able to build me a fully stocked and working nuclear shelter in/under my garden. Must be able to have work completed in 4 minutes time.

      4. A.A.Hamilton

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        Is that signs which are complete (define 'complete') or just a part of a street sign? How much constitutes 'part'? I typically have about 5 to 9 attempts at these security tests; is it just me?

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      I don't think I'd use a drop-down for those two choices. Too easy to choose the wrong item.

    6. JimboSmith Silver badge

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      On the flip side of the coin. When we had the sad passing of the Queen Mother commercial Broadcasters were supposed to be notified by an alarm. This was supposed to be sent by Independent Radio News by Satellite and would have alerted all their subscribers. The Obit alarm required you to have a 1U box in your racks room and to have it wired in so that everyone knows it's been triggered. To trigger it you had to simultaneously press two buttons under spring loaded plastic covers. Sadly on that Easter Saturday the alarm wasn't triggered correctly and never went off across the country as a result. Someone said that one of the two buttons pressed was a wrong one. Weirdly they had no idea it hadn't gone off as (I believe) they didn't have the same equipment as their subscribers hooked into their studio. It was embarrassing not just for IRN but also their subscribers some of whom were not live at the time. I think at least one had an up tempo music bed being played by the automation whilst this sombre news bulletin went out. Some were doing football commentary of the televised late kick off.

      They still have the alarm but it is now supplemented by text messages and other methods.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

        > On the flip side of the coin. When we had the sad passing of the Queen Mother commercial Broadcasters were supposed to be notified by an alarm.

        Why is that urgent?

        1. JimboSmith Silver badge

          Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

          Why is that urgent?

          Because she was on the list of Category One Royals the death of whom requires special news coverage/programming. More importantly the bulletin length increases to five minutes and if you don't change things and you're in automated playout then you may lose the end of the bulletin of have music over the top etc. The BBC had/have a system called RATS which stands for Radio Alert Transmission System (and definitely not Royals About To Snuff it). That was piggybacked onto the 198LW signal of Radio 4. The OBIT alarm is now known as the Major Story Alarm and is also triggered for things like terrorist incidents, major accidents etc.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

            > Because she was on the list of Category One Royals the death of whom requires special news coverage/programming.

            Requires?

            What happens if you don't? People blissfully turn up to work when they should have taken the day off instead?

            1. JimboSmith Silver badge

              Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

              Requires?

              What happens if you don't? People blissfully turn up to work when they should have taken the day off instead?

              Yes "requires" as in the news is significant enough to warrant extended and more frequent bulletins etc. When our the Queen as our Head of State sadly dies the same thing will apply. There's more than a few people who will take the time to write a complaint to Ofcom if you just have the story as an and finally at the end of the bulletin.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      I think of those messages as the "yes", "yes", "yes", "oh s**t" - because that is how most users use them. Only use them when something can't be recovered, otherwise the users will be saying yes yes oh f**k as they hit the buttons

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      On the bright side

      Now they know the system does work as intended. :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: On the bright side

        In Israel we had those missile warning sirens too. Depending on where you lived they would go off with some regularity if the neighbours were having a particularly bad day.

        From my experience, it doesn't follow that missile warning = panic. Unless you're American, in which case you must exaggerate everything.

    9. JeffUK

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      I prefer "Cancel Message? "Yes" / "No" / "Cancel"" Just to make it even more confusing.

    10. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: Confirmation checkbox needed

      @Schultz - another victim of Poe's law

  2. Daniel Garcia 2

    " The Post reports that the messaging system offers a drop-down menue two options: "'Test missile alert' and 'Missile alert'." Whoever sent the message chose the latter instead of the former, with now-well-known results."

    Rather than choosing, i would guess that the operator arrive at the desk a few minutes earlier with his morning coffee and miss-click due to him not to be fully acclimatised to the mouse DPI setting (being there, done that).

    The option to send a whole state to "kiss goodbye your own arse mode" by a click on a drop down menu without confirmation, genius design.

    1. Steve Evans

      A drop down menu?!!

      What idiot designed that interface? I must mis-select from those at least a dozen times a day!

      For something as important as that you need a big red shiny button, a long distance from any other buttons, and as other have suggested, a confirmation box which looks absolutely nothing like any of the others, with hot keys disabled and the OK button not focused so an errant "enter" won't click it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        'you need a big red shiny button'

        I reminded of the Father Ted episode when Father Dougal gets invited onto the flight deck......

    2. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      Maybe they could just make the alert a simple "Now would be the perfect time to tap your stash of good stuff and don't sweat saving any for tomorrow."

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    Unfrendly Fire

    "The Post reports that the messaging system offers a drop-down menue two options: 'Test missile alert' and 'Missile alert'."

    This is the GUI equivalent of negligent homicide. I guess governments just don't do quality control, since they never need to make a profit and they almost never lose their jobs regardless.

    BTW, at least two well-known Hollywood actors are now accusing President Trump of creating so much (alleged) war fear that it greatly exacerbated the Hawaii alert panic, making him the main culprit!

    TDS strikes again.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Unfrendly Fire

      "BTW, at least two well-known Hollywood actors are now accusing President Trump of creating so much (alleged) war fear that it greatly exacerbated the Hawaii alert panic, making him the main culprit!"

      Well, making him the main culprit is a little harsh, but there would be a lot less fear floating about if he didn't take every chance he could to kick Kim in the balls.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unfrendly Fire

        No, there would be very little war fear if the rabid anti-Trump press had not been whipping up such fears since Inauguration Day. I mean. when they weren't blaming him for stupidity, incompetence, racism, sexual harassment, cronyism, collusion, and bad hair. No doubt more charges will be leveled in future.

        And today the haters are suggesting we're lucky Trump wasn't watching the news when the alert happened, or he'd have pushed the Button right then and there. This shiza is the same thing they pulled on Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. Basically the idea is that any Republican president that doesn't assume the fetal position at all times is just itching to blow up the world. Of course, Democrats would never do such a thing because they aren't bloodthirsty Republicans.

        1. Ol' Grumpy

          Re: Unfrendly Fire

          I'm pretty sure the issue isn't with Presidents - Republican or otherwise. It's more to do with the specific fact that this specific President is perceived by plenty of people in and outside of the USA as being an idiot.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Unfrendly Fire

            ...this specific President is perceived by plenty of people in and outside of the USA as being an idiot.

            Perceived?

            There's no "perceiving" about it.

            He *is* an idiot, plain and simple (both descriptors apply to him as well)

            // USAian

            // sorry

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Unfrendly Fire

              Um...would you care to point out which presidents in recent memory (and presidential candidates) have *not* been idiots?

              1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                Re: Unfrendly Fire

                ”Um...would you care to point out which presidents in recent memory (and presidential candidates) have *not* been idiots?“

                You may or may not agree with the policies, but Obama, Bill C, Bush Senior, Reagan and JFK were not idiots.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Unfrendly Fire

                  I'm too young to comment on JFK, and would probably agree about Reagan. But the rest?

                  Bush 1: Idea of bully pulpit was to whine about broccoli. Not to mention the whole "read my lips" debacle.

                  Bill C: Confused about whether he was in the white house out the playboy mansion.

                  Obama: Bumbling idiot when off teleprompter.

                  1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                    Re: Unfrendly Fire

                    Bill C was never confused, he was playing everything, and everyone, for whatever he could get. And Obama a bumbling idiot? I rest my case by referring you to https://youtu.be/UnW3xkHxIEQ.

                    1. Anonymous Coward
                      Anonymous Coward

                      Re: Unfrendly Fire

                      I know it's comforting for some to believe a despised political foe is stupid, but those who indulge in such beliefs are willingly donning blinders against harsh reality. The fact is by any rational measure Trump has been far more successful in his first year than anyone expected.

                      I certainly didn't think he'd wind down the ISIS threat and do it with US casualties so low that the press never mentions it at all. Then there's that big tax reduction. One may argue the merits of it, but those on the right see it as a big win, period. His base is saying to themselves "So far so good!".

                      And Trump accomplished these important things while enduring an extraordinary and partisan investigation, triggered by what we now know to be concocted lies Hillary paid for herself. Not to mention the torrent of abuse coming from a now-revealed left-wing media machine, backed up by certain entrenched and powerful Republicans in Congress, no less.

                      Trump is prevailing and gaining steam, while those GOP leaders who did oppose him are either shutting up or declaring they won't run for re-election. As final icing, Trump is filling record numbers of judicial posts while actually shrinking the Federal government, if ever so slightly.

                      Bottom line: Trump ain't no dummy. Wake up and smell the coffee.

                      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

                        Re: Unfrendly Fire

                        "The fact is by any rational measure Trump has been far more successful in his first year than anyone expected."

                        I'd actually agree with that. He's still in office, which surprises the hell out of me. And I'd even give him the tax win, although that would have been done a lot quicker had he not been making political enemies left right and center.

                        As for the rest...

                        - The investigation was primarily triggered by his Trumpness firing Comey, and saying it was related to the Russia thing.

                        - The 'Left-wing media machine' is, you know, the normal media. They just hate Trump because he's a pathological liar, then when they call him out on his BS, he calls them liars.

                        - Hillary paying for stuff.... I have no idea. Neither do you.

        2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

          Re: Unfrendly Fire

          "I mean. when they weren't blaming him for stupidity, incompetence, racism, sexual harassment, cronyism, collusion, and bad hair. No doubt more charges will be leveled in future."

          Finally Big John - something you and I agree on.

  4. macaroo

    It took 13 minutes to devise a damage control plan to save their jobs. They also had to figure out who to blame.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      and the winner was the lowest paid or newest guy on site.

      1. Sandtitz Silver badge
        Joke

        Oncall story

        "I work at a recently commissioned ballistic missile warning HQ somewhere in the Pacific. The 24/7 job consists mostly of playing Counter strike, watching Netflix, and boredom. There is also a spiderweb clogged red alarm light with klaxons which supposedly tell when we my every others' lives in the island are coming to an end. At that point we press the recessed and sealed Red Button to tell about this fate to the rest of the denizens."

        "My boss decided to take a weekend night shift from us technicians because the pay is multiple of his already ridiculous salary and his new car needes a big down payment."

        Someone else can continue from here...

      2. TheRealRoland

        Apparently it was a person already member of the team for 10 years, and has been reassigned other duties, but has not been fired.

  5. Winkypop Silver badge
    Mushroom

    Oh my GUI

    One hopes that the people in the bunkers with the actual pointy fire-sticks have a better procedure/GUI.

    Hi!

    You seem to be waging intercontinental thermonuclear warfare.

    Do you need a hand with that?

    - BOmB

    1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Re: Oh my GUI

      "One hopes that the people in the bunkers with the actual pointy fire-sticks have a better procedure/GUI."

      Drop down menu:

      -Launch Missiles

      -Launch Missiles Now!

      -Simulate Missile Launch

      <OK> <APPLY>

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Oh my GUI

        <OK> <APPLY>

        Contemporary UIs don't need old-fashioned <OK> and whatever buttons. A single drop-down menu is all there is: you select an item -usually an unintended one- and it will be applied/executed/entered immediately. The paradigm is to hide the sought-after function behind several layers of a vast variety of different but equally confusing dialogue forms with the underlying basic idea that if you surprisingly managed to find said function you surely know not to mishandle it. Welcome to the Brave New UI.

        1. jimbo60

          Re: Oh my GUI

          Naw. The latest trend is to put about 10% of the function in menus, and hide the rest in text commands, secret invisible spots, and shortcut keys. Kinda like Unix systems 30 years ago.

          Type Win+Crl+C on your windows box and try to find a menu entry to put it right again. Go ahead, I dare you.

    2. Christoph Silver badge

      Re: Oh my GUI

      "If my wife denies my conjugal rights, or the morning milk is sour

      From eight to nine in the morning, you're in for a nasty hour

      The button being so terribly close, it's really a dreadful joke

      Just a bump with my arse as I go past, and you'll all end up in smoke"

  6. beep54
    Terminator

    This is why Republicans

    here in the US have cut funding for quality control on so many things. Who need it? Plus, it fun!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is why Republicans

      This is a state agency in a perpetually Democratic state.

  7. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    Wasn't there a little issue with training tapes...

    ...at NORAD during the Carter admin? Where we thought we were getting poked and started down the road of mass retaliation? And then the USAF tried to cover it up?

    I have a new excuse of avoiding my mandatory training now... training is dangerous!

  8. JakeMS Silver badge
    Joke

    Success!

    This was a success, why is everyone complaining? This was a test after all right?

    --------------------

    Test method:

    Step One:

    - Send Emergency message

    Step Two:

    - Gather Data:

    Did everyone receive the message?

    Yes: Great, works as intended - would have saved the day!

    No: Problem, everyone would have been dead in real situation!

    --------------------

    So, in this test case it appears to have been "Yes" which is perfect and shows it works as intended! I'd say job well done and deserves a Pina Colada!

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Success!

      "job well done and deserves a Pina Colada!"

      But in future don't drink the Pina Colada before running the test.

    2. EarthDog

      Re: Success!

      "I'd say job well done and deserves a Man Tai!"

      Fixed that for you. Pina Coladas are Caribbean.

      1. TheRealRoland
        Coat

        Re: Success!

        But what about the Women Tai?

        Mine's the one with Mai Tais in all pockets.

        1. EarthDog

          Re: Success!

          D'oh!

  9. Brian Miller

    Duck and cover revisited

    Oh, come on now, just because the alert sent the populace running for futile shelter doesn't mean that it wasn't really a good time for all! This is the perfect thing for a BOFH to spring on a boss.

    Seriously, by the time an alert like this goes out, the people will only have a few minutes to find shelter. It only takes 12 minutes from North Korea to Hawaii. You can bet that most shelter won't be adequate.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Duck and cover revisited

      > "You can bet that most shelter won't be adequate."

      Not true in this case. NK could at most deliver a 20kt bomb, and accomplishing even that feat would be a near-miracle, considering who we're talking about. And a bomb of that size would severely damage only about 0.1% or less of the big island. If that included Honolulu then yes a bunch of people would be killed inside the city, but practically nowhere else.

      Such an attack would definitely enrage the US, and insure the obliteration of the NK power structure one way or another. Therefore such an attack will not happen. Only after they establish a substantial strike capability would things change, but China isn't going to allow that to happen.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Duck and cover revisited

        NK could at most deliver a 20kt

        I do not quite get how you reached that number. As far as damage if they go for a space boundary explosion (30-40km or higher) every piece of civilian electronic on Hawaii along with the electric grid will stop to exist. They do not need to blow up Honolulu. They can do much more damage exploding it high enough above it to fry the infrastructure on all islands.

        The reality is that NK already has the infra to put USA into the stone age. All it takes are 4-5 missiles and 4-5 ~100kt warheads. Just blow them up high enough.

      2. Geoffrey W Silver badge

        Re: Duck and cover revisited

        RE: "Such an attack would definitely enrage the US, and insure the obliteration of the NK power structure one way or another. Therefore such an attack will not happen."

        Unless there's a mistake. For example, this one.

        Lets hope that NK has better GUI design than that of the wealthy, technologically superior country that made this mistake. I don't hold much hope; do you, honestly?

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. CraPo

          Re: Duck and cover revisited

          > Lets hope that NK has better GUI design than that of the wealthy, technologically superior country that made this mistake. I don't hold much hope; do you, honestly?

          Errr, nope.

          http://cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180103090028-01-north-korea-south-korea-hotline-0103-exlarge-169.jpg

          1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

            It could have been a lot worse.

            XP is a masterpiece of GUI design compared to anything that came after it. (And I include the Windows 7, "let's put the entire start menu in a little box" decision in that.)

            1. Updraft102 Silver badge

              Re: It could have been a lot worse.

              "XP is a masterpiece of GUI design compared to anything that came after it. (And I include the Windows 7, "let's put the entire start menu in a little box" decision in that.)"

              Agreed on the goodness of XP's UI, but remember that Vista still retained the option to use the Classic start menu.

      3. MonkeyCee Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: Duck and cover revisited

        "Only after they establish a substantial strike capability would things change"

        In so much as they can wreck the US, they already have that. There's pretty much nothing you can do to stop someone lobbing a nuke into space, popping it off at ~30km, and let the earth's magnetic field do the rest. The norks aren't interested in neutron bombing the US for lebensrahm, it's a deterrent to US invading them.

        Assuming only the US has it's grid fried, and no-one else took any serious damage, you're still looking at 80% of the country with no electrical power for the first couple of years. Assuming all the worlds production of power transformers is then used for resupplying the US, it should only take about eight years to rebuild the grid.

        That alone will kill many more Americans than dropping a bomb on a single metropolis. Starvation, disease and lack of heating/AC will. A decade of living like the nineteenth century might just topple the US from it's current perch as the dominant empire.

        I mean, it's not like the Chinese would benefit from such a conflict.....

        1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

          emf storm

          "That alone will kill many more Americans than dropping a bomb on a single metropolis. Starvation, disease and lack of heating/AC will. A decade of living like the nineteenth century might just topple the US from it's current perch as the dominant empire."

          You got that right. It would kill about 90% I reckon, and after a decade they might have re-entered the "functioning country" league at the bottom - below Somalia

        2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: Duck and cover revisited

          "... lebensrahm ..."

          Don't know whether to upvote or to downvote this...

          As we're playing armchair nuclear strategist: if North Korea wants to do real damage to US and other western economies - EMP blasts over Mumbai and Bangalore should have an excellent cost-benefit ratio.

    2. David Gosnell

      As I recently wrote on the broad matter...

      Given that *any* long-range missile North Korea flung at the US (or allied target) would essentially mean regime if not national suicide, does it matter (from that point of view; there are obviously greater implications) whether it's got a nuclear warhead or not, if there's even an outside chance it might? Strikes me that North Korea have been going overdrive on the fear, uncertainty and doubt with all their nuclear testing and test missile launches (with varying degrees of success), to the point that if they were crazy enough to try it on, whether they really can yet miniaturise a nuclear device becomes of secondary significance if the response before any missile is even half way across the Pacific will be to flatten them. The only real question would be whether the US's own crazed despot would authorise nuclear carnage or engage in a more measured precision regime-targeting response. Either way, at the very least the Kim dynasty's tenure would be over, and they may as well save themselves the weapons-development effort to invest in rebuilding the country afterwards. Let's just hope this is all hypothetical armchair analysis, but with crazies on both sides of the ocean, it's hard to be too optimistic.

      1. JLV Silver badge

        Re: As I recently wrote on the broad matter...

        >if the response before any missile is even half way across the Pacific will be to flatten them.

        Geez, I sure do hope that, if both the West and the Soviets managed to live with a doctrine of "take first strike, then respond massively" during the Cold War, then everyone is sane enough not to launch a nuke towards NK until you know what they've launched.

        The reason this was done is because false alarms happened several times during the Cold War and the stakes were immeasurably higher than Fat Boy's little tantrums. It doesn't make any sense to be on hair trigger, both the US and Russian arsenals are designed to survive strikes orders of magnitude bigger than NKs and hitting back right away doesn't stop the incoming missiles in the least. That's why both parties agreed to sit out the first strike.

        Factor in that China might be mighty peeved, or worse, panicked, on seeing a US counterstrike and you can bet the counterstrike is gonna wait. All this, of course, is assuming some level of rationality out of POTUS or, failing that, in the NORAD protocols.

        This whole thing about the EMP threat is highly uncertain as well. Yes, it would cause damage. How much? No one is quite sure. Again, even during the Cold War, the EMP was never quite that clearly the end of things (granted, standard atomic war would have done that quite well).

        Here's a blurb about that: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-12-22/hardening-power-grids-for-nuclear-and-emp-attacks-by-north-korea

        The 20KT cited by Big John is likely to be more correct than wrong - NK's are for now fission bombs and those top out in yield rather quickly - with bomb damage falling off at square of distance, Hiroshima type damage on any one selected target in Hawaii would be expected, not total destruction of even one of the islands. I'd aim for Seattle instead if I was him - Honolulu et all are not big cities.

        Another issue for poor Fat Boy is that no one really knows if the various US Star Wars ICBM defenses would work. They might. Or they might not - their tests have worked at times but no one is sure if the tests were representative of real world difficulties. If they did work, he'd be flattened and wouldn't have caused any damage.

        And, currently, it's not even a 100% certainty that a NK strike would actually work as intended.

        It makes more sense for him to hold on to his missiles and use them as a threat against invasion or a regime change situation, rather than just lobbing them for the hell of it. He can even enlist them in his usual gambit of taking Seoul's population as hostages.

        He might be a lunatic, but his dynasty has lasted 70 years so far, they're careful in what they do. Unless his back is seriously to the wall, these missiles are only useful as long as they are unused.

        1. David Gosnell

          Re: As I recently wrote on the broad matter...

          @JLV

          I surely hope so too, but as I understand it, current stated US doctrine appears to be less reassuring, specifically refusing to adopt a no-first-use policy. Gentlemen's agreements may not apply to lunatics.

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Duck and cover revisited

      It only takes 12 minutes from North Korea to Hawaii.

      That's a "best case" assumption.

      Assuming:

      - The missile performs as desired

      - The missile's guidance system performs as desired

      - The correct coordinates for Hawaii and the launch point have been entered into the above guidance system

      - The boom-y thing at the pointy end works as....planned

      - ...when planned.

      You think QC is bad on the warning system. Why should it be any better at the other end?

  10. Chairo

    Perhaps he just wanted a cup of coffee...

    and the buttons looked the same.

    Hmm, now I have the Axel F. tune in my ear...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Perhaps he just wanted a cup of coffee...

      Or perhaps there were really two people involved who were playing "whose button is bigger and works too" game? Just thinking out loud here.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why the FCC is involved?

    Some friends of Pai's had their holidays ruined?

    This looks to be a matter that should be handled well above Pai's head.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Why the FCC is involved?

      I believe the FCC would have jurisdiction over the national emergency alert system, which depends on the state run systems.

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Why the FCC is involved?

      This looks to be a matter that should be handled well above Pai's head.

      Aren't most matters over his head?

    3. druck

      Re: Why the FCC is involved?

      Pai would only blame crooked Hillary's email server for sending the alert, and say this would never happen if all emergency communication systems were handed over to big cable.

  12. DougS Silver badge

    UI design 101

    Make the common case (system test) easily accessible and the uncommon case (actual alert) jump through a hoop or two. If it is true they were the two options in a single drop down menu, and I guess no "are you sure" and "are you REALLY sure" to confirm that it is a real attack then obviously they didn't put any thought at all into this. But ideally it would be in its own menu item, not sharing the drop down with the test they do once a month.

    Brother of a friend of mine was in Honolulu on vacation when this hit. He said his brother (who happens to a software engineer) immediately assumed it was a false alarm, and convinced his wife to stay on the beach while everyone else was panicking and trying to find shelter. Even if I thought it was real I would probably stayed there - better to die in a flash with a nice light show than to die slowly of radiation burns.

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: UI design 101

      and I guess no "are you sure" and "are you REALLY sure" to confirm

      Such a two-step confirmation needs to be one positive ("Are you sure?") and one negative ("Cancel alert?"), and should require full verbal responses ("Yes", "No"). Would take maybe 10 seconds extra while almost eliminating accidental activation.

      Even better: two hard-wired buttons with those flip-top covers, a good distance apart, and you need to hold them for at least five seconds while a LOUD buzzer sounds.

      1. Ben1892

        Re: UI design 101

        Yep, I agree with the visual cues and flip-top buttons, even better, different shaped and coloured buttons, but would you have one for each message; "there's a tsunami Test" "There's a real tsunami", "missile test", "missile really, yes really, quick, jump in the sack with the nearest hottie", "Test red alert", "red alert" (but for that last one, it does mean changing the bulb)

        1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

          Re: UI design 101

          This was clearly a purple alert.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UI design 101

      Rather an extreme way to secure a sun lounger. Not German by any chance?

      (For our non-UK chums that's a joke that probably doesn't work well outside the UK)

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: UI design 101

        Virtual beach towels, now you're talking! (Oh just think of the opportunities hacking AR systems for tourists...)

        But it does sound a bit like Hawaii bought some of their kit from Siemens.

        EE to client: "Does it have to work, or is Siemens okay?"

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: UI design 101

      "On the Beach" is the correct response to a nuclear threat.

      1. Korev Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: UI design 101

        "On the Beach" is the correct response to a nuclear threat.

        Drinking fine wine and racing fast cars, doesn't sound too bad...

      2. arctic_haze Silver badge

        Re: UI design 101

        "On the Beach" is the correct response to a nuclear threat.

        This is exactly what Jyn Erso and the rebel captain did at the end of the movie.

    4. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: UI design 101

      Given human nature, if the alarm ever goes off again, most of the locals will ignore it. On Navy ships, when it's the real thing, the klaxons are broadcasting "this is not a drill" for the real thing. I've heard of fire alarms going off and people running around telling people it's not a drill...

      1. Norman Nescio Silver badge

        Re: UI design 101

        Given human nature, if the alarm ever goes off again, most of the locals will ignore it. On Navy ships, when it's the real thing, the klaxons are broadcasting "this is not a drill" for the real thing. I've heard of fire alarms going off and people running around telling people it's not a drill...

        Or, if the fire alarm is designed by René Magritte.: "This is not a pipe."

    5. Tim Seventh

      Re: UI design 101

      "Brother of a friend of mine was in Honolulu on vacation when this hit. He said his brother (who happens to a software engineer) immediately assumed it was a false alarm, and convinced his wife to stay on the beach while everyone else was panicking and trying to find shelter."

      Oddly and disregarding whether or not the alarm was real or false, convinced his wife to stay "on the beach" could actually saved her life when it does happen. This is especially true when shelters are too far in reach (for 5-15min time) or are much closer inland.

      The operation of a single shot missile often cannot afforded missing their target. Thus in a matter of statistic, well targeted missile has a high probability of aiming at the middle of the target (in this case the island), areas of high populations (likely closer inland), and/or the location of a main city (also closer inland) . Thus, staying furthest from the middle of the island means you have a higher probability of not getting near the missile target range. This in return means you could have avoided most of the initial shockwave blast, the fireball from the nuclear explosion and the initial radiation (deadly within two miles from the blast).

      So if you thought it was real but stayed there, and you also didn't waste time staring at the light show while started taking cover on the beach, you might really survive it.

  13. Mark 85 Silver badge

    For some reason, when I read this earlier in the news, I visualized this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gv3GVa3uPG8

  14. andyp-random-number

    The effects of social media

    ....tweet "I've just got up"

    ...tweet "I've just been to the toilet"

    ...tweet "Nuke warning"

    ....no thought needed, just send anything. :)

  15. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge
    Pint

    Someone got the shits when the message was received.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    time to shelve the development standards

    and have a big red button and a big blue button.

    For when drop down or check box just isn't enough...

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Re: time to shelve the development standards

      Red Button/Blue Button?

      And when you get a color-blind operator?

      BTW: Has the news not percolated yet? They knew they had screwed up in about 3 minutes, but there was no "Oops, that was a mistake, stand down" message in the system, and they had to wake up a programmer to enter the text (and some sort of template, and maybe rebuild the message database...) before they could "publish". That took 15-30 minutes.

      Yes, that totals to more than the numbers given in the article. Here in the US the times reported were 3 minutes to "Oops".. 38 minutes to "All clear" actually broadcast.

      Maybe one of those "US using old-school minutes while UK uses metric?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Realistically if a nuclear bomb is on the way to Hawaii a text message is't going to give you much chance to not get blown to smithereens.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      North Korea's nuclear tests haven't been that big. Though the last one was much bigger than the first two (20-30 kt), which were Hiroshima sized. By WWIII standards the first ones were all tactical nukes.

      And that's assuming the bombs work properly, and don't fizzle (giving a smaller yield).

      But they're not going to destroy whole cities in one go. They might kill most people within a 1 mile radius say, but outside that distance being in shelter is likely going to save you. Plus if you're further away, avoiding fallout is a really good idea.

      Also, North Korea's missiles are pretty shitty, and not accurate enough to aim at specific targets - like cities. So it would have to be blind luck to get a hit - but a successful launch would still cause fallout. And being indoors is going to help with that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Fair enough and good points, thanks.

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Their most recent test - the one that was confirmed as a fusion device - had a revised estimate of 250 kilotons. Far larger than Hiroshima.

        While the US & Russia have larger weapons in their arsenal, they can be dialed to a range of outputs, so they probably wouldn't be used at their full multi-megaton potential unless some insecure orange dimwit was upset someone called attention to his small hands.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There was a nuclear power station control desk which had two identical switches. IIRC one for an orderly closedown - one for an emergency crashdown.

    The operators fitted different brands' beer pump handles to them so they were more distinguishable.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "The operators fitted different brands' beer pump handles to them so they were more distinguishable."

      Yo'd want to be sure that in an emergency shutdown your jury-rigged handle won't fall off in your hand. So you'd need to test it. How?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      buttons, buttons, and more buttons

      Some years ago United canceled a flight my family of 5 was using to get home, and it would be ~5 days to get another flight. So we rented and drove. The rental happened to be a fully loaded Tahoe. The interior control panel, armrests, and so on were covered with a sea of identical little square silver buttons, each labeled with some sort of hieroglyph symbol.

      So, flying down a big city expressway, at night I needed to adjust my mirrors. Fumbling around, I pressed a likely looking button, and the mirrors folded in. And I could not drive in traffic with no mirrors and read the buttons to get the mirrors back out. I think my wife finally figured out the right button, but not before fumbling for a light switch and accidentally calling OnStar help.

    3. Norman Nescio Silver badge

      Nuclear switch beer pump handles

      Your reference actually gives another reference for this - Donald A. Norman, The Psychology of Everyday Things. (1988)

      It was re-issued as 'The Design of Everyday Things', and is well worth reading. Wikipedia says: "One of the main premises of the book is that although people are often keen to blame themselves when objects appear to malfunction, it is not the fault of the user but rather the lack of intuitive guidance that should be present in the design.".

      The book is not necessarily always right, but even when wrong, it is useful to reflect on why it is wrong.

  19. Seajay#

    Alphabetical Alliteration

    The alphabetical alliteration was pleasing to me but I think you could have gone further.

    Fat-fingered Fumble of

    Garbage GUI

    Horrifies Hawaii

    Indicating Incoming

  20. David Roberts Silver badge
    Trollface

    Users and menus

    I wouldn't be surprised if there were additional checks which were clicked through.

    It is not unknown for users opening a "boobs.jpg.exe" attachment to angrily click through the "are you sure you really want to do this?" prompts because:

    (1) Do you think I'm some kind of idiot?

    (2) Boobs!

  21. iron Silver badge

    #PEBSAFF

    Got to watch those fat fingers!

  22. Joeman

    Wait 9 months..

    In 9 months time there will be a large number of "Missile scare" babies born to random sets of parents who just happened to be in the same area when the message came through... only a few mins left to live? might as well go out with a "Bang"...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Wait 9 months..

      Not to mention those born to those whose partner wasn't in the same locality. Expect to see some divorces and claims for child support from the authorities!

  23. WallMeerkat Bronze badge

    BBC News App

    The BBC News app also caused a bit of a panic, when the mention that it was a mistake was at the end of the sentence, handily truncated by the home screen app alert, something like:

    "Hawaiians receive incoming ballistic missile alert....."

    WTF?????

    Click headline

    ".... mistakenly"

  24. DataWombat

    2-item drop-downs are dodgy

    It's often not obvious which one of only 2 items is the selected one, especially for users, especially if they aren't concentrating on the UI

  25. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    What about a nice game of chess?

    1. f4ff5e1881
      Mushroom

      Beepers' Video Fever

      And it’s just a little to the left,

      And it’s just a little to the right,

      And it’s just unreal, how alive you feel

      Vaporizing everything in sight...

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Howlers & Ramifications

    What interests me here is ‘the nature of mistakes’.

    Most of us, in our working lives, make mistakes from time to time. Especially when computers are involved. A mistyped key, a wayward click or drag of the mouse. Easily done.

    Most of the time, the mistake is spotted, rectified, and it’s of little or no consequence.

    Sometimes, however, a seemingly minor slip – the wrong file selected in a dialogue box for instance, and the ramifications are more serious. Some process starts that shouldn’t. Something gets uploaded to the net that shouldn’t. I suspect some people reading this will know that sinking feeling in the stomach you get when you realise you’ve slipped up, or, just as bad, get a phone call or an email some time later informing you of a big problem, and it’s all your fault…

    I suspect, in this case, the confirmation box for the ‘Test Missile Alert’ and ‘Missile Alert’ were practically identical, which is why the poor sap went ahead and selected Yes.

    I can’t help feeling sorry for the person responsible. The UI wasn’t good enough, a wrong menu item was selected, and that simple slip up lead to a serious consequence.

    I pride myself on being conscientious but I’ve made a couple of howlers in my time. The first, very early in my career, was when I was being shown the company’s mini-computer, which served around 20 people. I went to point at its control panel and accidentally flipped its on/off switch. Cue a blast of fans followed by a deathly silence.

    The second one, a few years back, concerned the release of an industry report which was, shall I say, not inexpensive in nature. The report PDF sits behind a paywall. Its ‘Table of Contents’ PDF sits on the public-facing website. The release process I’d done hundreds of times before, without incident. But on this occasion, Muggins here got the two PDFs mixed up. I can’t even blame the CRM – it was Outlook’s tiny font combined with wayward muscle memory that did it for me. But like the Borg, I adapt – damned if that will happen again.

    The thing is not to be too hard on yourself - to err is human. But having said that, if you’ve made any howlers in your time, do share!

  27. adam payne Silver badge

    <“BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”> Brown trouser moment there.

    <The FCC said: “Based on the information we have collected so far, it appears that the government of Hawaii did not have reasonable safeguards or process controls in place to prevent the transmission of a false alert.”>

    Really you think!?!

  28. SimonC
    Devil

    With Ajit involved can someone tell me how to subscribe to the priority notice plan? I'd like to receive my emergency notice first, and not have to wait 2 minutes for non-subsribers low priority message traffic

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      You forgot this: "And have to click through 30 pop-up ads..."

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Simple....

    ...when you press Real Missiles -launch a game of Tic Tac Toe with 0 players; before you get to confirm the "launch"

  30. TedF

    No warning at all?

    Does the UK still have a warning system? I do remember sirens being tested in the sixties and despite warnings in the local press of the test, many getting very upset.

  31. Craigie

    No

    No.

    I refuse to believe that was what happened.

    No.

  32. handleoclast Silver badge

    Compounded by the second problem

    Apparently Hawaii had an agreement with FEMA which allowed them to broadcast the emergency alert but had no arrangement which allowed them to use the same services to broadcast a cancellation.

    Compounded by the third problem. It took 45 minutes to come up with a waiver that allowed the cancellation to be sent.

    This stuff isn't rocket surgery. Anyone with any sort of sense would ask themselves "What happens if it turns out to be a false alert?" Wouldn't they?

    1. f4ff5e1881
      Trollface

      Re: Compounded by the second problem

      “This stuff isn't rocket surgery”

      I guess that’s a cross between rocket science and brain surgery?

      In which case I’d say it’s at the very heart of the matter.

      Rocket science – ICBMs, and brain surgery – the psychology of computer UI/human brain interaction.

      Okay, a bit of a stretch, but worth it for the comedy value?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Compounded by the second problem

        "“This stuff isn't rocket surgery”"

        What it is, is duck water on my back.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not my fault, the Software made me do it!

    Let this be a lesson for all computer programmers.

    No matter how hard you work; no matter what you do; some Morlock-level government employee will screw it up and blame you.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: It's not my fault, the Software made me do it!

      I disagree.

      If you as a developer provide a critical system which has two menu items next to each other - you have to expect someone to mis-click at some point. Everyone's done it with their email program at some point, and sent something to junk mail, or deleted it or whatever.

      Only this is a safety critical system. With email it doesn't matter so much, though the menus could be better designed.

      In this case a distressing and potentially panic-inducing false alarm was issued. Which is bad enough.

      In the worst case scenario, there's a real incoming nuclear attack and someone hits test - and no alert gets issued.

      By these early accounts, it's a shit design.

  34. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Mushroom

    You can make this stuff up

    Shotwell keeps the jacks and the rubber ball in his attaché case and will not allow me to play with them. He plays with them, alone, sitting on the floor near the console hour after hour, chanting "onesies, twosies, threesies, foursies" in a precise, well-modulated voice, not so loud as to be annoying, not so soft as to allow me to forget. I point out to Shotwell that two can derive more enjoyment from playing jacks than one, but he is not interested. I have asked repeatedly to be allowed to play by myself, but he simply shakes his head. "Why?" I ask. "They're mine," he says. And when he has finished, when he has sated himself, back they go into the attaché case.

    It is unfair but there is nothing I can do about it. I am aching to get my hands on them.

    Shotwell and I watch the console. Shotwell and I live under the ground and watch the console. If certain events take place upon the console, we are to insert our keys in the appropriate locks and turn our keys. Shotwell has a key and I have a key. If we turn our keys simultaneously the bird flies, certain switches are activated and the bird flies. But the bird never flies. In one hundred thirty-three days the bird has not flown. Meanwhile Shotwell and I watch each other. We each wear a .45 and if Shotwell behaves strangely I am supposed to shoot him. If I behave strangely Shotwell is supposed to shoot me. We watch the console and think about shooting each other and think about the bird. Shotwell's behavior with the jacks is strange. Is it strange? I do not know. Perhaps he is merely a selfish bastard, perhaps his character is flawed, perhaps his childhood was twisted. I do not know.

    Game, by Donald Barthelme

  35. ecofeco Silver badge

    The Post reports that the messaging system offers a drop-down menue two options: "'Test missile alert' and 'Missile alert'." Whoever sent the message chose the latter instead of the former, with now-well-known results.

    I have used so many interfaces like this. To exact opposite commands right next to each other. Really bad design.

    1. Mike 16 Silver badge

      Two options next to each other...

      @ecofeco:

      ---

      I have used so many interfaces like this. To exact opposite commands right next to each other. Really bad design.

      ---

      And you forgot "Running on an OS or browser that regularly twitches the mouse pointer (or maybe shifts focus to an entirely different window) just as you click".

  36. Sceptic Tank
    Paris Hilton

    "This is not a drill". So I'm guessing that N-Korean ballistic missiles resemble power tools in flight?

  37. Tim Brown 1
    Mushroom

    What I'm wondering is...

    How many people took advantage of the message to have a last end-of-the-world shag and will we see a mini baby-boom in nine months time? :)

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I little off topic, but...

    Many years ago I worked master control for our local network affiliate TV station.In our control room we had lights for the Emergency Broadcast System. One was an EBS Test light, and the other was the "real" EBS light.

    On the wall was a special video tape in an envelope with a very bright red/yellow stripped label on it. This was the "real" tape. We would get a new one several times a year, and were told to dispose the old one. We also had a tape labeled EBS Test very clearly. The idea was that every once in a while, the EBS Test light would come on, and the next commercial break, we had to run the EBS Test tape. The Feds did this to make sure we were paying attention (and to test the system). They would send the test signal, and watch each station to make sure we played the test tape.

    We disposed of the old "real" tapes by throwing them in the trash. I thought back then (I was a teenager at the time, so forgive me) that it would be very funny to take one of the old "real" tapes, and copy it onto the EBS Test tape. As a grownup now, I can see the harm that could have caused.

    I still wish I had opened one of the old tapes just to see what the government thought we should know. I was told it was a federal offense to open the envelope on the old tapes, but man I was curious.

    1. Martin an gof Silver badge

      Re: I little off topic, but...

      Many years ago I worked master control for our local network affiliate TV station

      Sorta puts the UK system to shame as this recent story on the BBC news site explains: Hawaii false alarm: How would UK handle missile threat?

      When I worked in independent radio we had the "obituary alarm", and that was it, really. This was controlled by IRN (independent radio news) and simply closed a relay at our end. My boss had arranged it so that an orange strobe flashed in the lobby outside the on-air studios. Oh yes, and a bleeper (that wouldn't be heard inside the studios) played "Yellow Rose of Texas". It was pot luck whether or not the jocks actually noticed.

      The procedure was to PFL (listen) to the IRN feed for instructions, maybe put the "obit" tape on, but assume that eventually all programming would be handed over to IRN. There was a list of people for whom the alarm would be activated and, I assume, it might also be activated in a time of national emergency.

      The only time it was used "in anger" during my tenure as an engineer at the radio station was for the death of Diana, princess of Wales.

      After that, the list of people was considerably shortened.

      Interesting to note that every (FM) radio station in the UK broadcasts RDS and even the cheap, dumb decoder we used could switch on the "emergency broadcast" flag if we so chose, thus causing any switched-on radios to retune to hear the broadcast. Since there was no legal requirement for us to be able to do so, it wasn't even wired up.

      M.

      1. JimboSmith Silver badge

        Re: I little off topic, but...

        When I worked in independent radio.........

        See my earlier post and be very grateful you weren't working when the Queen Mother went. The OBIT alarm is alive and well but now known as the Major Story Alarm.

        As regards RDS pirates have been known to play with the RDS PTY Codes and use the "31" Alarm code to get radios tuned into them. It happened to a car I was in once and (working for a radio broadcaster at the time) I was asked to explain why we now had loud "Jungle" music pumping through the speakers instead of the previous station.

  39. Boohoo4u

    The software was outsourced to India. The brother of the Software Engineer had his work hours reduced at a nearby Jockey (underwear) plant.

    That brother is now fully employed, and the other brother is getting paid overtime for the software rewrite.

    Don’t call it a conspiracy, it’s a win-win!

  40. Aynon Yuser

    Sorry for profanity but I'm angry

    I call complete bullshit.

    The fucker was probably bragging to his friends that he had the capacity to scare the entire state. He probably laughed and his friends probably laughed, and they "dared" him.

    I would imagine impressing a girl/girls was part of this scenario.

    They all probably had one very big hearty laugh after seeing how frightened everyone was. Then they quickly learned how serious the scare was and the one who clicked "send" put on his "I'm sorry I didn't mean to do it...honest... it'll never happen again" face.

    Yes what a big impressive joke. In the meantime the warmongering dictator, delusional, paranoid, hillucinating, lying, bigoted and small dicked Donald Stump would be more than happy to start firing off nukes in all directions to prove to the world how big his dick is.

    Yep. It's a great joke. To the false alert sender, you're a little fucking bitch and I hope the big fucking laugh you got out of it was worth it.

  41. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Where's Clippy

    ... when you need him?

    "It looks like you are trying to start a mass panic? Would you like help?"

  42. JLV Silver badge

    Gotta love Pai here , top form

    Captain Obvious says this alert was crap and needs investigation.

    As if it was a) intentional, b) likely to be repeated and c) not going to be highly detrimental to the involved idjits' career prospects.

    Meanwhile, all of the above are likely to be highly true of Big Cable's consumer fleecings.

    He's probably ecstatic he can be seen to protect the public in the exceptional instance where doing so doesn't rile his string pullers.

  43. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    It was of benefit

    I suspect that many more people in Hawaii know where their closest bomb shelter is located than was the case before this happened. Not that we apparently need be concerned about what happens in shithole countries, and any ICBM coming from a Muslim country would be turned away at the border anyway ...

  44. gjbdebug

    “Test” vs. “Prod”, Anyone?

    This goes beyond (extremely) poor UI design since there is no GUI workflow tweak or fix that cures faulty environment segregation. In the “real world”, where maybe we don’t develop ICBM alert systems often but nevertheless build and maintain heaps of infrastructure, the concept of separate and distinct “test” or “stage” (pretend) and “production” (real) platforms is firmly embedded in system operation lifecycles. Here it would seem such isolation was lacking with EMA and they instead took a rather naïve approach with a single environment whereby one could choose “test” or “real” in the same system and from the same GUI element no less <cringe>. Virtually any system featuring that “design” would implode from mistakes in seconds, hence the environment segregation. Dedicate each to a purpose and render it incapable of any other.

    1. JLV Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: “Test” vs. “Prod”, Anyone?

      could have been worse:

      "Launch missiles. Test missile launch".

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: “Test” vs. “Prod”, Anyone?

      > Here it would seem such isolation was lacking with EMA and they instead took a rather naïve approach with a single environment whereby one could choose “test” or “real” in the same system and from the same GUI element no less <cringe>.

      I looked hard for the joke alert icon but I couldn't find it...

      Are you serious? So you have two cars: one 'prod' car for driving to work and one 'test' car that stays on the drive. Each morning you go to the 'test' car and check the oil, water and tyre pressures and if they are okay, announce to yourself that it has passed the test. Then you get in the 'prod' car and drive to work.

      1. gjbdebug

        Re: “Test” vs. “Prod”, Anyone?

        I understand the idea of never running the actual, live system through a dress rehearsal may be hard to swallow, but this is how critical systems are segregated (you wouldn't want a test withdrawal made from your actual bank account, would you? The reason why that virtually never happens is because the "test" and "prod" systems are independent). The key is synchronization/replication such that test is quite representative of prod and where the wheels falls off the car analogy.

  45. john fisher 1

    I WAS THERE

    I was there and, although I dismissed the warning as rubbish and continued making breakfast, my wife and sister-in-law ran about frantically gathering what food and water they could come up with and tried to decide what room to hunker down in. Overall, it wasn’t funny watching my wife calling her son to say a possible goodbye.

    This is not a mistake you get to make. Responsible parties need to be fined, fired and get some jail time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Responsible parties need to be fined, fired and get some jail time.

      Well, we're talking about civil service jobs here. None of that will ever happen. But I'm sure, somehow, bonuses will be distributed.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How is the warning transmitted to phones?

    I’m just curious as to how the warning is transmitted to phones. The screenshot doesn’t appear to show a standard text message (and how would the system know which phone numbers to send to?), so is this some sort of low level stuff built into GSM (contact all phones connected to specific base stations?), something unique that the USA has invented, or...?

    1. Tim Seventh

      Re: How is the warning transmitted to phones?

      "I’m just curious as to how the warning is transmitted to phones."

      In some smartphones, there's a setting for Government Alerts (iphone) and Cell Broadcast (android). For iPhone, it includes AMBER alerts and Emergency Alert. For android, includes, presidential alerts, extreme threats, ETWS test broadcasts, AMBER alerts, channel 50 (for Brazil), and channel 60 (for India).

      That's how the "Ballistic Missile" message was broadcasted.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How is the warning transmitted to phones?

      > so is this some sort of low level stuff built into GSM (contact all phones connected to specific base stations?)

      Yes. It's called cell broadcast and we have it in Europe also.

      The actual system they use in the States involves more than that, of course, mainly in specifying what messages, who sends them and how they get to the cells in the first place. If you read the actual linked article, that's why they took a while to send a false alarm broadcast.

  47. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    I grew up on the designated battlefield for WW III and was trained to fight in it.

    I'm re-living my late teens right now.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > I grew up on the designated battlefield for WW III

      Kashmir?

      1. EarthDog

        Possibly London, Paris, Bonn, San Diego, LA, Seoul....

        Get it?

  48. Named coward

    Seek shelter

    Is there a state-level plan which all hawaiians know about and regularly practice as to WHERE one can seek shelter from a ballistic missile attack?

  49. Jake Maverick

    maybe it's all a cover story and was intended, designed to make Trump THINK about what he would have done if he weren't playing golf and was, instead, sitting at his desk with the big shiney button on it.....

  50. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    And here is the, ahem, UI in question

    Beware of projectile vomiting

  51. PBXTech

    Perhaps we are over-thinking this a bit. Is the whole alert thing really necessary?

    You are on an ISLAND. There is an inbound multi-megaton nuclear weapon. Where exactly do you plan to GO?

  52. Andromeda451

    State Worker

    It is apparent that the guy made a mistake and the system was not set up to make it difficult to proceed. I for one would love to see the requirements doc that was created to implement the warning system. As far as the ROW goes Mr. Trump is POTUS, get over it. He may be an idiot but he's OUR idiot.

  53. polanve

    The whole warning system, as someone pointed out, is useless because of the speed of a missile strike. It is "security theater", meant to give the population the impression that someone is doing something to make you safe, so you won't take to the streets because the MFs are going to get us all killed.

  54. ricardian
    FAIL

    And now this http://uk.businessinsider.com/hawaii-emergency-agency-password-discovered-in-photo-sparks-security-criticism-2018-1

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