911 call centers are becoming increasingly vulnerable to hackers, who shut down the centers’ systems before demanding a ransom, according to a report.
“When news broke last week of a hacking attack on Baltimore’s 911 system, Chad Howard felt a rush of nightmarish memories,” reported NBC News on Tuesday. “Howard, the information technology manager for Henry County, Tennessee, faced a similar intrusion in June 2016, in one of the country’s first so-called ransomware attacks on a 911 call center. The hackers shut down the center’s computerized dispatch system and demanded more than $2,000 in bitcoin to turn it back on. Refusing payment, Howard’s staff tracked emergency calls with pencil and paper for three days as the system was rebuilt.”
“Nearly two years later, the March 25 ransomware attack on Baltimore served as another reminder that America’s emergency-response networks remain dangerously vulnerable to criminals bent on crippling the country’s critical infrastructure ─ either for money, or something more nefarious,” NBC News explained, adding that there have been “184 cyberattacks on public safety agencies and local governments in the past 24 months.”
According to the report, 42 out of 184 cases at cybersecurity company SecuLore have either “directly or indirectly attacked” 911 call centers.
“Two dozen involved ransomware attacks, in which hackers use a virus to remotely seize control of a computer system and hold it hostage for payment,” they declared. “Most of the other attacks involve “denial of service,” in which centers are immobilized by a flood of automated bogus calls.”
Those behind the attacks in Tennessee and Baltimore have yet to be found, making the problem even more of a concern for centers.
“911 is the perfect [target] because it can’t afford to be down,” expressed SecuLore CEO and President Tim Lorello.