Cyberattacks on the rise against 911 call centers around the country

Posted at 7:10 PM, Apr 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-04 20:10:58-04

Cyber attacks against 911 call centers around the U.S. are on the rise, according to a recent report by NBC News.

The cybersecurity firm SecuLore Solutions tracks publicly-reported cyberattacks across the United States. 

The company said there have been 184 cyberattacks on public agencies and local governments in the past 24 months. 

The tracking numbers indicated 42 of the 184 attacks impacted 911 call centers - either directly or indirectly. 

In some cases, hackers flooded the call centers with fraudulent calls. 

In others, they seized control of a center's computer-aided dispatch system, which links the workers receiving 911 calls with the people dispatching resources. 

Such an attack could leave a 911 center reliant on the old-fashioned pen and paper method to record 911 call information. 

"That would impact both the speed and efficiency of how we do our work," said Gary Bell, Waukesha County's Director of Emergency Preparedness. 

Bell said 911 centers have become more susceptible to hacks now that they rely on online networks when responding to calls. 

"This is not a local issue," he said. "This is a global issue." 

SecuLore solutions said there have so far been no publicly-reported attacks on 911 centers in Wisconsin. 

However, the company said local governments in Fond du Lac, Janesville, Nashotah, Eau Claire County, and Chippewa County, have all complained of problems with hackers in recent years. 

The company's list of recent cyber attacks in Wisconsin also includes hacks against the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the State of Wisconsin Election System.

"Our systems are being attacked on a regular basis, every single day," Bell said. "It's because of the things we have in place that we are preventing (hackers) from making their way in." 

Waukesha County Communications Center employees are regularly put through training on how to spot fraudulent emails and internet links. The most recent training happened within the last month. 

Bell said the center regularly oversees such training to minimize the risk of someone opening up a malicious email. 

"It's vitally important we do that," Bell said. 

The center also backs up its data every 24 hours, to minimize the information that could be lost in the event of a cyberattack. 

"Criminals are criminals, right?" Bell said. "They're going to go for the easy targets. So we're just trying to make ourselves a little more fortified."