There’s nothing like being told “do not be alarmed” to really set you on edge.
Of course, if the government building you work at suddenly and unexpectedly had a message in Chinese come booming out over the intercom system, odds are you were already pretty freaked out.
That was the scenario for workers at the United States’ National Weather Service centre in Maryland this week.
It’s been reported a woman’s voice came over the PA while folks working at the nearby National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Centre for Weather and Climate Prediction also received a message, this one coming in via phone.
“We are aware of the Chinese message that is propagating through the phone system and was [broadcast] over the building PA,” read an email from Doug Fenderson, the branch chief for infrastructure and Web services at the centre.
“We are engaging the Vendor AT&T to alert them of the incident and get root cause. The phone [system] is not tied to any of the Government IT controlled systems in the building. Please do not be alarmed.”
The exact nature of the message is not entirely understood as yet, although the Washington Post is reporting a pretty tame few sentences along the lines of “you have a package from Amazon at the Chinese Embassy, press 1 for more details”.
Of course, if spy movies have taught us anything, “a package from Amazon” could actually be code for something super urgent and deadly, like “seriously, stop comparing President Xi Jinping to Winnie the Pooh, he doesn’t think it’s funny”.
— Yuan Yang (@YuanfenYang) July 16, 2017
The more troubling issue may simply be how and why the Chinese message got to be broadcast over a government building’s phone and PA systems, with the distinct possibility being raised that this could be a case of international hacking.