Hackers Target Baltimore City 9-1-1 Dispatch System

Baltimore City’s 9-1-1 dispatch system was breached by hackers last weekend. The breach lasted for 16 hours and was perpetrated by an unknown actor or actors. An investigation is underway.

Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office emphasized that the incident was a “limited breach” and that critical services were not impacted or disrupted. The breach forced details from incoming callers seeking emergency support to be relayed manually, instead of electronically. Technicians were able to isolate the affected server and now the systems have been fully restored.

According to The Baltimore Sun:

City personnel “identified a limited breach” of the CAD system, which supports the city’s 911 and 311 services, about 8:30 a.m. Sunday, Frank Johnson, chief information officer in the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology, said in a statement.

Johnson said 911 and 311 “were temporarily transitioned to manual mode” and continued to operate without disruption.

“This effectively means that instead of details of incoming callers seeking emergency support being relayed to dispatchers electronically, they were relayed by call center support staff manually,” Johnson said.

Cyber 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.

HB 634/SB 285 – Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland – Establishment, a 2018 MACo Legislative Initiative, creates a Commission to look at the strategic aspects of NG911 implementation in coordination with the Emergency Numbers Systems Board’s (ENSB) existing efforts, particularly ensuring that those areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB are addressed.

The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of NG911 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly. One of the charges of the Commission is to make recommendations on how to best anticipate and prevent cybersecurity threats to NG911 infrastructure. The bill has passed both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly.

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