Be wary of phishing scams posing as emergency alerts, warns security expert

People with a smart phone will get an emergency alert on Sunday (Picture:

A cyber security expert has warned smartphone and tablet users to be aware of phishing scams capitalising on the government’s Emergency Alert being tested this weekend.

At 3pm on Sunday, phones and tablets across the country will sound for ten seconds to alert users to an emergency notification, which will appear on the screen. The notification will not include any links, and the alert will sound even if the phone or tablet is on silent – devices with haptic feedback capabilities will vibrate.

The government is testing the new system designed to provide warnings about severe flooding, fires and extreme weather. 

However, cybersecurity expert Nick France, CTO at Sectigo, is concerned hackers may exploit the warning to scam unsuspecting users.

‘This is a massive open opportunity for phishers,’ he said. ‘Phishing actors are getting extremely sophisticated and tuned in to what the public needs and expects – and they will certainly be jumping on the fact that a national alarm test is coming up for UK citizens. 

‘The government is right to let people know the official alert won’t include any links, but citizens should be warned that malicious hackers might pose as the government and send fake emails around that date.’ 

Alerts will only be sent to smart devices – phones and tablets – on the UK’s 4G and 5G networks. Devices on 2G or 3G networks, wifi only, turned off or in airplane mode will not receive a notification. Only phones and tablets running iOS 14.5/Android 11 or later will receive the alert.

‘I expect scammers will grasp the opportunity to send fake alerts, which are likely to include bogus links, relying on the fact that many members of the public won’t know or remember that no links are supposed to be in the government’s alert,’ added Mr France.

Sunday’s alert will read:

This is a test of Emergency Alerts, a new UK government service that will warn you if there’s a life-threatening emergency nearby.

In an actual emergency, follow the instructions in the alert to keep yourself and others safe.

Visit for more information.

This is a test. You do not need to take any action.

‘I advise UK citizens to beware of scammers in all unsolicited inbound communications including text, email, and social media messages, and to not click on any link they are not explicitly expecting.’

Sunday’s test has raised a number of safety concerns, including the potential for the alarm to distract drivers or alert domestic abusers to victims’ secret emergency handsets.

To turn off the notification, search ‘emergency alerts’ in phone settings, then turn off ‘severe alerts’ and ‘extreme alerts’. Basic non-smartphones will not receive the alert. 

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