Securing CAD in 9-1-1 Centers

 ~Cyber Attacks and Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD)~

800px-petyaa

9-1-1 Centers (PSAPs) serve two main Public Safety functions:

  • INBOUND– Answering a 9-1-1 call or text from the public
  • OUTBOUND– Dispatching first responders (fire, EMS, law enforcement)

In most centers, these systems exist on two separate networks. The inbound network is typically installed and maintained by the vendor or channel partner who provides the Call/Text product (TriTech, Motorola, West, Solacom, AT&T, etc..).  The outbound (Computer Aided Dispatch) CAD system, in many cases, resides on a network managed by the local municipality or county government.

We currently have a PSAP in South Florida that has been without CAD for three weeks. A ransomware attack via the city email system made its way through the municipal network, into the 9-1-1 center and locked down a number of law enforcement systems, including CAD. For the past weeks, communication with first responders is a manual, paper and pen process.  The attack was not directed @ the 9-1-1 Center, but the collateral damage is a major hit to operations.

ALSO: Currently, in a Mid-Atlantic state, there is a PSAP whose CAD system has been down for weeks as the result of a cyber attack.

I have spoken to numerous centers across the country who have experienced similar CAD outages. Most of these were not as well publicized as major cities like Baltimore.

Can’t Patch Me

There are still government entities out there running Really old stuff.. and in some cases REALLY REALLY OLD STUFF (e.g.  MS SQL 2003-  Microsoft only supports back to SQL 2008). We should not run applications that are considered critical infrastructure (9-1-1 CAD) on the same network as these systems…

9-1-1 Center  Managers and Directors may have no clue regarding this connectivity or how to patch and protect these outbound networks.

We need to rethink how we deploy mission-critical CAD in 9-1-1 Centers.

Today in the 9-1-1 community there is a lot of excitement around new vendors and product offerings, including enhanced location accuracy and cloud-based applications.  In my opinion, Cyber awareness needs to be included.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Testing 1,2,3…

Recently, the Federal Government released a committee report. This report included the recommendation that the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), NOT be modified to change the classification of Public Safety Telecommunicator from “Office and Administrative Support” to critical public safety professional. This was in direct opposition to the recommendations from APCO, NENA and the Congressional NextGen 9-1-1  Caucus.

OPM

The hope was that the committee would agree to reclassify Telecommunicator as a “Protective Service Occupation”. This is the same category as firefighters, police officers (and life guards)

Brian Fontes, CEO of NENA – “The men and women of 9-1-1 do so much more than just answer the phone. They guide callers through life-saving procedures, provide advice on how to handle dangerous situations, and provide critical backup to field responders, all while under great stress and pressure.”

APCO President Brent Lee- ” I am extremely disappointed that the Policy Committee failed to address the inaccurate classification of Public Safety Telecommunicators in the SOC.”

It would appear that the Office of Management and Budget does not ‘hear’ the compelling story of the service  Call Takers and Dispatchers provide.

As I understand it, NENA and APCO will be meeting with both OMB and Congress in an effort to resolve this before the SOC classification is finalized in 2017.

One thought- The Washington, D.C. “Unified Command” PSAP is only a 16 minute drive from the Office of Personnel Management. I had the pleasure of meeting  Karima Holmes , the Director, last week. I am sure that she would be more that willing to give the OPM Committee Members a tour.

Would somebody please set this up?? (Directions provided above..)

Outbound Text from the PSAP

Indiana

 

This past week I attended the NENA 2016 Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana.

One of the information Breakout Sessions was entitled “New, Now, Wow”. Rob McMullen ENP, the 9-1-1 Director from Vigo County, Illinois, was a member of this panel. Rob informed the audience that Indiana has implemented Text-to-911 statewide, 92 counties, a major accomplishment.

Rob provided the following “Text”data for the past 6 months:

  • Statewide average-  1,400 inbound texts per month
  • The County that includes the City of Indianapolis averages 1,000 of these texts per month
  • The rest of the Counties average 20 texts per month

However, Telecommunicators (those amazing individuals who answer your 9-1-1 call) have started to use the outbound text feature to deal with both abandoned and, excuse the term, “butt dial” calls (averaging 16,000 calls per month statewide) placed to 9-1-1.

butt

The telecommunicators have found that many times by sending a text such as, ‘Did you mean to call 9-1-1?” they will  receive a response, whereas a phone call, in many instances, is not answered. People often do not want to speak with 9-1-1 and admit their error. Many times these calls will result in an unnecessary law enforcement dispatch for follow-up.

This feature is a major addition to Text-to-911 implementations.  It may become a feature that Telecommunicators request, facilitating further adoption of Text-to-9-1-1 across the Country.