Senator: 911 systems vulnerable to cyber attack

The growing concern of a cyber attack has prompted agencies to reevaluate their backup plans should such an event occur


By EMS1 Staff

NEW YORK — After a recent study suggested cyber hackers could hack over 6,000 phones to flood North Carolina dispatch centers with fake 911 calls, a senator is advocating for a plan to counteract such an attack.

New York Senator Charles Schumer expressed his concern this week over potential cyber attacks on dispatch systems across the country, stating that, “Outdated infrastructure has enabled a potentially fatal flaw in this system.”

Senator Schumer urged government officials to create a group to develop a technology plan to protect call centers and investigate current systems to address any vulnerabilities, reported the Times Union.

“At a time when our county is facing heightened risk for attack, both physical and digital, it is imperative that our 911 emergency systems remain secure and available to continue providing services around the clock,” wrote Schumer. 

Although the FCC has a set of 911 protocols for major cellphone carriers to ensure the effectiveness and reliability of wireless 911, the implementation of it has moved slowly.

These cyber attacks on dispatch centers are known as Telephony Denial of Service, and many EMS agencies have a protocol in place should such an event occur. “Like any other computer system out there, there are firewalls and security in place,” Clinton County EMS Director Eric Day told the Press-Republican. During a TDoS, neighboring counties are able to assist with calls that are rerouted or handle an overflow of calls. 

The New York EMS agency’s dispatch center uses technology from the 1950s, which Day said needs to be replaced with Next Generation 911 software. 

“Put simply, NG911 is an internet protocol-based system that allows digital information to flow seamlessly from the public, through the 911 network and on to emergency responders,” according to 911.gov.

The biggest obstacle, Day notes, is funding for Next Generation 911. 

Read the study below.

911 DDoS Cyber Security Report 

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