Malware Disrupts 9-1-1 Call Centers in 12 States

Department of Homeland Security officials have confirmed that Emergency 911 call centers located in at least 12 different U.S. states were recently the target of a widespread distributed denial of service (DDos) attack that disrupted normal services.

DDoS attacks launched in late October were aimed at public service answering points, or PSAPs, in multiple geographic areas. PSAPs are call centers responsible for police, firefighting, and ambulance services.

According to Fedscoop,

Several U.S. 911 emergency call centers said they were flooded with fake phone calls late last month. The immense volume of connection requests nearly put authorities in Arizona “in immediate danger of losing service to their switches,” according to an official statement. Operators could not distinguish fake, incoming requests from genuine calls for help.

Each DDoS attack relied upon a network of infected iPhones. Once compromised, the smartphone would automatically and repetitively send calls to the nearest emergency call center.

A teenage hacker arrested in Arizona’s Maricopa County is supposedly responsible for originally creating and then sharing the malware used to infect the devices. This virus — which when downloaded would gain total access of a device — was spread through people sharing it on social media and several other websites, investigators said. One of the websites that hosted the computer virus had reached nearly 150,000 page views before being shut down.

The teenager’s computer virus spread like wildfire because it was shared multiple times over by social media users on Twitter and YouTube, among other platforms. As a result, in a short period of time, the malware-laden link was quickly clicked numerous times by different people across the internet in different U.S. states.

DHS first began investigating the string of emergency call center outages shortly after original reports came from a local agency. Since then, DHS has been disseminating relevant information through multiple partners including the FCC, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, the National Emergency Number Association, the National Association of State 911 Administrators, and the National Fusion Center Association, along with all major telecom companies.

Read the full article for more information.

DDoS attacks are a major concern for 9-1-1 call centers across the country. The transition to Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) provides an opportunity for stakeholders to collaborate and share best practice information. At this year’s MACo Winter Conference, you can learn about best practices and challenges associated with the implementation of NG911.

Here are more details:

Title: Fighting Fire with Fiber? Connecting to Next Gen 9-1-1

Description: As 20th-century technologies phase out, counties must reinvent their emergency call systems. One key issue that must be addressed is how to fill the void of legacy systems that are no longer supported – through building costly and complicated fiber optic and wireless services to replace them. While the technology to implement Next Generation 9-1-1 is available now, there are many issues that local governments must work through relating to technology standards, the process of transition, governance, and funding. In this session, panelists will highlight local progress, identify gaps, and offer ideas on how to best move forward with building a statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 network.

Date/Time: Wednesday, December 7, 2016; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm

The MACo Winter Conference will be held December  7-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel in Cambridge, Maryland. This year the conference’s theme is “An Ounce of Prevention.”

Learn more about MACo’s Winter Conference: