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LAX says 'emergency' evacuation display was an accident

April 23, 2013|By Andrew Blankstein and Robert J. Lopez

Los Angeles International Airport officials early Tuesday said a message on multiple flight status displays warning passengers to evacuate because of an emergency was an accident.

At 9:47 p.m. on Monday, passengers at the Tom Bradley International Terminal alerted police to the message on monitors behind ticketing counters, which read, "An emergency has been declared in the terminal. Please evacuate."

Operations personnel at LAX initially believed the display could be the work of a hacker and moved quickly to review their computer systems to investigate the breach, authorities told The Times.

Officers quickly swarmed the terminal near the boards to search for whomever was responsible for the breach. Authorities at the time said it was not immediately clear whether the intrusion was made from another site. No suspects were identified late Monday.

Further review showed that an airline contractor with authorized access to the display system accidentally caused the override of screens that normally display the status of flights, according to LAX spokeswoman Nancy Castles.

"After the mistake was discovered, airport staff removed the message from all the monitors by 9:54 p.m.," Castles said in an email.

The airline contract employee was "programming airline check-in information into a set of monitors for a particular flight when he accidentally activated the pre-programmed emergency terminal evacuation message," Castles said. "The airport's information technology staff will be looking at ways to ensure this accident does not happen again in the future."

Earlier this month, an electronic sign near USC was apparently hacked to display inappropriate messages about the Los Angeles Police Department.

Authorities called the possibility of a breach at LAX far more serious because it could have sparked widespread panic at one of the nation's busiest airports.

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Twitter/@anblanx, @LAJourno

andrew.blankstein@latimes.com, robert.lopez@latimes.com

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