The emergency communications industry is a growing target for cyber security attacks and the threat is only just beginning. Public safety communications infrastructure is becoming more IP-based, and as a result, it's vulnerability to cyber threats is on the rise. There are more than 6,000 PSAPs located across the country, and 80 percent of them are small, making them unlikely to have inadequate cyber security defense programs. This is just one factor, among many, that makes 911 systems an attractive target for cyber-attacks.
Several major cyber security incidents have plagued the industry in the recent months, including
- An October 2016 attack where a teenager accidently impacted 911 centers around the country with a Twitter post containing a link that once clicked on, hijacked your iPhone and dialed 911 repeatedly. The post was clicked more than 117,000 times.
- Ransomware that affected 300 PCs and 40 servers with sensitive data plagued Madison County, who paid an astounding $21,000 in ransom (later covered by cyber insurance). The cost in
man-hours to restore data is unknown and irretrievable.
These are just two examples that demonstrate that cyber threats are growing in complexity and sophistication, and could continue to increase in severity as PSAPs become more interconnected, both regionally and at the statewide level.
So what cyber threats exist and what steps can you take to prepare your psap?
Understanding the types of cyber threats that exist today, PSAP and IT Managers can better protect the data and assets within their 911 centers that could be targets.