PORTLAND -- Someone attempted to issue a false school delay report for Portland Public Schools late Monday night, leading several local news outlets to briefly report the false information before retracting it.
Schools use a system called FlashAlert to submit closures and delays. Local media outlets subscribe to FlashAlert and use the system to publish the closures for web and broadcast.
At 10:40 p.m. Monday, local news outlets received an email purporting to be from the FlashAlert system, claiming there were technical problems with the system and stating that all Portland Public Schools would be opening two hours late Tuesday.
The notice arrived just before the 11 p.m. newscasts aired, and several other local TV news stations initially broadcast the closure notice. The message also was relayed on Twitter.
Portland Public Schools announces that all schools will start 2 Hours Late, no AM preschool, buses on snow routes #LiveonK2 for the latest— KATU News (@KATUNews) December 10, 2013
Craig Walker, who operates the FlashAlert system, sent out an alert to the media at 10:57 p.m. correcting the bogus email and confirming Portland schools were not delayed.
Hang on a second - hearing word that the 2 hour delay reported for Portland Schools is BOGUS. On time opening Tues..— KGW News (@KGWNews) December 10, 2013
According to Walker, the FlashAlert system itself was never hacked. "Someone attempted to create an account, attempting to impersonate Portland Schools," Walker explained in an email. But Walker never activated the account so the information was never distributed through the FlashAlert system itself.
When the would-be hacker saw the information had not been distributed, "they emailed their false info to the media," said Walker.